A coordinated community response is required to meet the urgent and varied service needs of victims of domestic violence. However, the examination of social service system functioning presents a unique set of methodological and statistical challenges. Social network analysis provides insight into service accessibility in inter-organizational networks. This paper describes how social network analysis was used to understand the role and function of organizations in a domestic violence service delivery network.
Interviews were conducted with representatives from 27 core domestic violence service providers in a Midwestern city. Representatives reported on their organization's services and listed the other organizations to which they refer and reasons for referral. This data represents directed referral relationship information. Referral relationships among the 27 organizations were identified, visualized and explored using Pajek social network analysis software. Global density and local centrality measures were calculated to understand the structure of referral pathways and organizational service delivery roles.
Data show that the organizations form a connected subgraph where all organizations are connected to the larger network in some way. All total, 151 referral relationships were identified among the 27 organizations representing 22% of all potential referral relationships (density = 0.22). Organizations were connected to an average of 11 other agencies in the network, however this number ranged from two through 25 suggesting variation in the way in which organizations are connected to one another. Organizations receive referrals (in-degree) and also send referrals (out-degree) to an average of six other organizations.
Organizations referred clients to seven major social service types: domestic violence counseling, domestic violence shelters, housing, legal services, general human services geared toward highly specialized populations (i.e. immigrant groups, women with physical disabilities), and other types of human services. Not surprisingly, domestic violence counseling, shelter and legal service organizations account for the most interactions in the network. Domestic violence counseling organizations are the most active referral sources (characterized by a high out-degree) where as shelters are the most popular referral recipients (characterized by a high in-degree). Legal service organizations are both active referral sources and recipients. Moreover, domestic violence shelters and legal service organizations function as network mediators, connecting clients to other support services in the system as indicated by their betweeness centrality scores. Together, the interactions among domestic violence counseling, shelter, and legal service organizations are key service facilitators without which, the network begins to fragment into separate components which may have adverse effects on the accessibility of other critical support services.
The interactions among domestic violence counseling, shelter and legal service organizations are pivotal for a coordinated community response. Without domestic violence oriented organizations, pathways to support services can be compromised. This paper demonstrates how basic social network analytic techniques like local degree and centrality measures are useful for describing and evaluating organizational roles, service pathways, and the overall functioning of coordinated community service systems.