Building Community Partnerships: Using Social Network Analysis to Strengthen Service Networks Supporting a South Carolina Program for Pregnant and Parenting Teens

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In 2013, South Carolina implemented a multi-year program providing support services for pregnant and parenting teens. Local lead sites were responsible for coordinating service delivery in partnership with other multidisciplinary community-based organizations. We used social network theory and analyses (SNA) to examine changes in partnerships over time. Using two-stage purposeful sampling, we identified three lead sites and their self-reported community partners. We administered two web-based surveys grounded in social network theory that included questions about partnership relationships and organizational characteristics. We calculated selected whole-network measures (size, cohesion, equity, diversity). Following the Year 1 surveys, we reviewed our findings with the lead sites and suggested opportunities to strengthen their respective partnerships. Following the Year 3 surveys, we observed changes across the networks. Survey response rates were 91.5% (43/47) in Year 1 and 68.2% (45/66) in Year 3. By Year 3, the average network size increased from 15.6 to 20.3 organizations. By Year 3, one lead site doubled its measure of network cohesion (connectedness); another lead site doubled in size (capacity). A third lead site, highly dense in Year 1, increased in size but decreased in cohesion by Year 3. Innovative use of SNA findings can help community partnerships identify gaps in capacity or services and organizations needed to fulfill program aims. SNA findings can also improve partnership function by identifying opportunities to improve connectedness or reduce redundancies in program work. The ability of lead sites to strategically reconfigure partnerships can be important to program success and sustainability.