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Masters of networks: pushing the collaboration forward

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05 Feb / 2013
Author: Insite Staff Tags: Comments: 0

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On January 21-22 ECLT hosted in Venice “Masters of Networks”, an event organized by our partner,  the University of Alicante.

The organizers, Alberto Cottica and Giovanni Ponti, wanted to explore the possibilities that modern network analysis techniques could offer to policy makers.  The event also became the perfect occasion to mix competences and let two worlds meet: policy makers and network scientists.  Four topics were identified prior to the conference to foster the conversation between the two groups:

  1. WT1. Is it who you know? Looking for patterns of investments on the World Bank Open Financial Data.
  2. WT2. Designing scaling into online collaboration
  3. WT3. Tracking a democratic conversation across different online media
  4. WT4. Managing diversity in social networks or Organizational adaptation to the threat of exit of key members


The four groups worked hands-on data for two days, coming up with some notable outcomes and interesting perspective for future collaborations.

Remarkable is the study performed by group 1 on investments patterns. Through the mapping of the World Bank dataset Open Financial Data, the group tried to find answers to questions such as: “Do certain networks of companies tend to win the majority of World Bank contracts in any given sector?”, “What are the linkages of winning companies with other suppliers within a project?”, and “What is the pattern of knowledge transfer?”. Results has been published on the UNDP blog “Voices from Eurasia”.


Other outcomes are getting published during these days; here’s a brief list of the posts which followed the event:

As imagined before the conference by the organizers, putting together people with different backgrounds could be in some ways hazardous.  Different languages and approaches can drive to failure, if people are not motivated to collaborate towards a shared goal, or if they are not willing in developing an empathic understanding. For this reason, the organizers worked hard on the setting-up of the event, not just sharing participants information, but also stimulating people in defining work group topics before the meeting.  This greatly reduced the barriers between the two worlds, even if there is still room for improvements.  As reported by Catherine Howe, sometimes multidisciplinarity and unconference-style meetings can generate turmoil:

Multidisciplinary working needs some rules: We perhaps fell between the conference and unconference formats a little too much – I think next time I participate in something like this (and I hope I do – it was great!) then I think that some ground rules need to be established in advance to make sure that basic differences in approaches don’t take up too much time. 

But given the topics studied by the INSITE consortium, open-space conferences and hands-on workshops are a powerful tools for exploring new areas of research and for creating new interfaces between the void interstitials created by disciplinary segregation.

If you are interested in these topics, but you missed the event, here you can listen the podcasts of “Masters of Networks”:

You can also join the conversation on Twitter under the official hashtag #MoNetworks and know more about next INSITE events and activities subscribing our newsletter.

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