Impact of a Participatory Analysis of a Campus Sustainability Social Network: A Case Study of Emory University

Emory University

Publication Release Date: June 1, 2017
Date Posted: March 22, 2018
Submitted by: Jade Chalkley
Sustainability Topics: Campus Engagement, Public Engagement
Content Type: Publications
Publisher: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
Periodical Name: Sustainability: The Journal of Record
Type: Journal Article


Social network analysis makes visible the invisible connections and flows that underlie complex social relationships. Applied organizational researchers have used social network analysis to assess and improve organizational and leadership effectiveness by helping organizations design interventions to overcome siloing, enhance collaboration and productivity, and implement strategic innovations. Some analysts of sustainability in higher education have explicitly called for a similar use of social network analysis to enhance sustainability progress on campuses. Addressing this call and literature gap, this article details the purpose, process, and results of the Mapping Emory's Sustainability Social Network project at Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia). The project had three major components: 1.) researching and creating visual maps of the university's sustainability collaboration networks, 2.) engaging key stakeholders and the wider campus sustainability community in participatory analysis of the results, and 3.) evaluating the effectiveness of this information for community members in deepening their own sustainability thinking and practice. The project demonstrates the power of social network analysis as a critical tool to engage and mobilize staff, faculty, and students in sustainability on campus by supporting evidence-based, strategic decision making among community leaders.