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Wilson-Grau and Nuñez Network Analysis

Page history last edited by Alexandra Pittman 11 years, 9 months ago

Ricardo Wilson-Grau and Martha Nuñez. 2007 “Evaluating International Social Change Networks: A Conceptual Framework for a Participatory Approach.”


Ricardo Wilson-Grau and Martha Nuñez[1] have developed a framework for measuring the complexity of the changes that networks seek to create. Evaluating networks differs from standard M&E approaches aimed at learning about one program, project, or organization. Networks operate in multiple, dynamic, changing environments, in which often the network and all of its members must adapt and change course on very short notice, requiring more flexible M&E planning and implementation. The structure is generally non-hierarchal with autonomous member organizations playing diverse roles in forwarding political and social change, sometimes collectively and sometimes individually or in clusters. Given this complexity and the multiple actors involved, the contribution-attribution issue becomes prominent. In order to address these different concerns, Wilson-Grau and Nuñez developed a conceptual framework and approach for assessing the functioning, purpose, and aims of a network. Specifically, they highlight four qualities crossed with three operational dimensions, which construct the backbone for any network assessment. The four qualities are democracy, diversity, dynamism, and performance. The three operational dimensions are: political purpose and strategies, organization and management, and leadership and participation. Assessments should address all of these different levels to track the manner in which and the ways that the network achieves it goals.  




  • The Wilson-Grau and Nuñez framework and approach is heavily based on participatory methodology as the primary means to gather and assess information about the social change and political outcomes generated by networks. This strengthens the relevancy of the findings as well as the assessment capacities of autonomous network members. 
  • There is a strong focus on the organization and management of networks, which are integral to internal functioning and purpose. This approach examines the network’s structure, operational management, institutional capacity, and communication in-depth. 
  • This approach underscores the importance of organic outcomes, in addition to general impact and other outcomes, which refer to the internal changes experienced by staff and network members. This is an important dimension of change often overlooked, and thus is an incredibly important contribution of this framework, helping us to understand if the existence of the network is an added value for its members. This is particularly important since it supports the reasons for the network’s unique existence and identifies areas or gaps underlying its effective operation and purpose.
  • There is a significant focus on measuring political outcomes, which aim to examine how social actors and network members influence longer-term changes in social relations and in shifting power structures in a given setting. 


Weaknesses (or not designed for):


  • The Wilson-Grau and Nuñez framework and approach does not require exploration of how the network actually contributed to the changes seen in political and other outcomes. The fact that this assessment is optional weakens our ability to really understand the role and contributions the network is making. What we can say about a network’s impact is primarily descriptive in nature, underscoring what the network does and who it targets and seeks to influence, but not if and how the outcomes actually have been achieved.
  • Relatedly, by focusing more heavily on assessing internal network structure, purpose, and functioning, this approach limits our understanding of the pathways and extent of external change, as well as if and how change happens.


[1] See Wilson-Grau, Ricardo and Martha Nuñez. 2007. “Evaluating International Social Change Networks: A Conceptual Framework for a Participatory Approach.” Development in Practice, 17(2): 258-271.

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