Social Network Analysis and Agent-Based Modeling: An Overview and Applications for Community-Based Work

2:00 PM – 2:45 PM

Jennifer Lawlor, Doctoral Student, Psychology, Michigan State University

Social network analysis and agent-based modeling have recently gained popularity as tools for understanding community problems and their solutions. In this session, I provide an overview of social network analysis and agent-based modeling, describing what they are, how researchers use them, and their strengths and challenges for use in community contexts. Participants will have an opportunity to explore several examples of how each tool has been used in community-based work. I also describe my recent research on stakeholder networks in community change efforts as an example of how these tools can be used together. This research compares stakeholder networks under ideal and realistic conditions when implementing approaches to change like collective impact, systemic action research, and network action research. Findings and implications will address the way these approaches shape stakeholder networks and how these networks change when presented with challenges like power dynamics and stakeholder turnover.


Jennifer Lawlor is a doctoral student in Michigan State University’s Ecological-Community Psychology Program, with specializations in global urban studies and quantitative methods and evaluation science. She holds an M.A. in ecological-community psychology from Michigan State University and a B.A. in psychology from DePaul University. Her work focuses on understanding community problems and their solutions through the lens of systems science. In her recent work, she has investigated the network processes through which community stakeholders share information. Ms. Lawlor also works with the Michigan School Program Information (MiSPI) project, which investigates the role of social networks in the research-to-practice gap. In her time at MSU, she has partnered with Michigan communities to implement systems change strategies and mapped stakeholder networks in Michigan’s Good Food Charter. Lawlor’s work was recently recognized by the Society for Community Research and Action with its student thesis award.

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