Data was collected using a two-part survey. Part one of the survey collected information on organizational attributes including organization type and staff size, priority issues, strengths and needs, and interests in collaboration. Part two of the survey gathered data on three types of interrelationships among organizations: advice and idea seeking, past or current collaborations, and desired future collaborations. Respondents could select organizations from a drop down list of organizations already identified, and were also able to add new organizations to the list.
A total 49 organizations were invited to take the survey; 41 organizations responded, resulting in a response rate of 83%. Organizations invited to complete the survey were limited to commodity organizations, agricultural businesses, farmers, and environmental and conservation organizations. Governmental entities at all levels (federal, provincial, local, First Nation) and for-profit organizations were not surveyed.
The data was used to visualize and analyze three types of networks: 1) advice and idea-seeking, 2) the past and current collaboration, and 3) future collaboration. Responses were collected using Qualtrics online questionnaire software and analyzed and mapped using UCInet and Netdraw social network analysis software. The results of section 1 and section 2 of the survey follow, along with a short explanation of SNA prior to presenting network maps.
Part 1: Learning about stewardship in the Lake Simcoe watershed
The following are the responses from the 22 environmental and 19 agricultural organizations to each organizational attribute question from the survey.
The results are presented in relation to each of the questions posed in the questionnaire, along with brief interpretation.
1. Which of the following best describes for whom you are completing the survey?
This graph illustrates the types of organizations who completed the survey. The majority of the environmental respondents are registered charities or non-profit organizations, while most of the agricultural respondents are agricultural businesses or commodity organizations.
2. Indicate the number of paid staff within your organization.
This graph and the one that follows provide some insight into the size and human resources capacity of the organizations surveyed. The majority of the groups who responded are organizations with less than 5 staff, while a handful are larger organizations with upwards of 20 staff.
3. Indicate the number of volunteers within your organization who help deliver and/or promote farm environmental stewardship.
Seventeen (17) of the respondents have no volunteers working on agri-environmental stewardship. Of the 24 organizations who indicated they did have volunteers engaged in stewardship, most had less than 10 volunteers.
4. In your opinion, how involved have you, or your organization, been in helping to deliver stewardship projects in the Lake Simcoe watershed over the past ten years?
Approximately half of the responding organizations indicated they were somewhat involved in delivering stewardship projects in the Lake Simcoe watershed, while an additional 10 felt they were very involved. These responses were fairly evenly divided between agricultural and environmental respondents, with a few more environmental organizations indicating they were very involved in stewardship.
5. Please rate the degree of impact you feel you or your organization has had over the years on agri-environmental stewardship in the Lake Simcoe watershed.
Most respondents (27) felt that they or their organization had a low or moderate degree of impact on agri-environmental stewardship in the Lake Simcoe watershed, while some (8) did not feel they were involved in a significant way. Only half a dozen organizations felt they had a high impact.
6. In your opinion, should a coalition of organizations involved or interested in Lake Simcoe agri-environmental stewardship be formed?
The majority of respondents felt that a coalition of organizations involved or interested in Lake Simcoe agri-environmental stewardship should be formed, while only two did not. Ten organizations were unsure. The organizations in favour of a coalition were evenly distributed between environmental and agricultural.
7. If a coalition of organizations involved or interested in Lake Simcoe agri-environmental stewardship were formed, should it be focused on:
When asked about the focus of a potential coalition of organizations, respondents felt that it should be focused on both acting as a coordinating body for prioritizing projects for government funding and being a single voice to governments on Lake Simcoe policies. Eight organizations prioritized a coordinating body for prioritizing projects for funding. Six respondents had other ideas, which are listed.
8. If funding were made available for groups, which of the following would be most effective in helping your organization:
Respondents were presented with a choice of four potential types of funding; the most popular response for both environmental and agricultural respondents was funding for implementation and on-the-ground projects, while the second most popular response was funding for training and education workshops designed to enhance collaboration. Funding to increase capacity was selected by seven respondents. The responses were fairly consistent between agricultural and environmental respondents, with agriculture showing a slight preference for training and education funding as compared to environmental respondents preferring capacity funding.
9. Please rank the following priority issues for you or your organization’s work over the next five years.
All respondents were presented with a list of five potential priorities for their work or that of their organization; no definitions for the priorities were presented. Looking at the combined responses of the environmental and agricultural respondents together, the top priority is farm sustainability, followed by water quality. When we separate out the types of respondents, we see that the agricultural organizations prioritized farm sustainability while the environmental organizations prioritized water quality.
10. Please rate the strengths of your organization as they relate to stewardship in the Lake Simcoe area.
Respondents were asked to rate the strengths of their organizations, as they relate to stewardship in Lake Simcoe. There were a variety of responses, with many strengths being selected. When looking at environmental and agricultural respondents together, the top two strengths indicated were “collaborating towards shared objectives” and “bringing people together to share information”. Agricultural respondents selected “financial support/incentives to implement best management practices” and “expertise on effective implementation of best management practices” as their top strengths.
11. How willing and able would your organization be to help others in the Lake Simcoe watershed to gain skills on your organizational strengths?
Building on the question about organizational strengths, respondents were asked how willing and able they would be to share those strengths with others. The majority indicated they would be “somewhat willing and able”, while many felt they would be very willing or willing but not able to at this time.
12. Which of the following would be the highest priorities for increasing your or your organization’s impact on Lake Simcoe stewardship?
When respondents were asked what would be most likely to increase their impact on stewardship in Lake Simcoe, the majority from both sectors indicated financial support or incentives to implement best management practices would be the highest priority. Agricultural respondents also felt that bringing people together to share information was important, while environmental respondents prioritized collaborating towards shared objectives and effective public or community engagement strategies.
Part 2: Social network maps
Understanding and interpreting SNA
Outputs of SNA include visual ‘network maps’ and a set of numerical measures. Together, these two elements can be used to describe the structure of networks and the roles of the organizations or individuals that comprise them.
The basic components of a social network are:
- Nodes, which in this analysis represent individuals and organizations; and,
- Ties, which represent connections (relationships) between two nodes, with the arrow originating at the organization (or node) that reported the connection and the arrowhead pointing to the organization that was identified. Lines with arrows at each end indicate reciprocal relationships where respondents identified each other.
The location of the nodes is important to understanding and interpreting SNA maps. Nodes that are most highly connected to others in the network tend to be located near the centre of the map; those that are less connected are situated further away from the centre, toward the periphery. In addition, nodes that have connections to similar others are located close to each other, sometimes creating ‘clusters’ or placing less connected nodes in central position if their connections are largely with well-connected others.
The numerical measures provide further insights into how the network is structured, and can be used to focus in on roles of specific organizations within networks. The numerical measures help to answer:
- How connected is the network? The connectivity of the network is measured in terms of density, or how many ties exist in relation to how many are possible among participants. Density values range from 0 to 1, with 0 indicating no connections and 1 indicating all participants are connected to each other. Lower density values indicate poorer connectivity, while higher numbers indicate greater connectivity.
- Are some participants more connected than others? The centralization of the network measures how even (or uneven) the distribution of ties is among participants. This measure results in a value between 0 and 1, with 0 indicating equal distribution of ties among all participants, and 1 indicating all ties connecting to one participants.
- How strong are relationships among participants? The strength of the relationships is measured by the frequency of interaction, or how often participants communicated with each organization they identified. Options for frequency of interaction provided in the questionnaire were ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’.
- Do participants (agricultural and environmental participants) tend to connect more often with those within their own ‘community’, or equally likely to connect outside of their community? Presence of sub-groups is a measure of the tendency for participants to connect to others within their own community. Here, we focused on agricultural and environmental sub-groups. The data generated in this analysis indicated the difference between the number of expected ties between sub-groups and the actual number, as well as the statistical significance of that difference (is it possible that the difference was due to chance?)
A final note: The results presented below represent a snapshot in time. The answers to all of the questions asked can change over time, indicating a strengthening or weakening of the network structure, changing roles within it, and the evolution of the network through different ‘phases’.
This section shows two types of networks: the whole network for each of the relationship types (advice and idea-seeking, past and current collaboration, and future collaboration) and priority networks based on the top (first or second-ranked) priorities of each participating organization / individual. Whole networks are presented first, along with legends to help interpret them.
Priority network maps
These network maps were created by selecting only those responding organizations and individuals who selected the priorities presented in Question 11: “Please rank the following priority issues for your organization’s work over the next 5 years” in the questionnaire as their FIRST or SECOND priority. Accordingly, each participant is located in two priority maps (their first and second priorities). We realize that organizations and individuals may have multiple priorities and that it can be difficult to select which is most important (including that the priorities provided as options overlap), however, this provides a way to identify what is most critical and others in Lake Simcoe who responded similarly. These maps provide an understanding of how responding organizations and individuals connect in relation to specific issues: farm sustainability, water quality, soil health, fish and wildlife habitat, and pollinator health. They also provide opportunities to think about potential future connections.
This section is organized as follows: priority maps for each relationship type are presented (for example, the advice and idea-seeking, past and current collaboration, and future collaboration networks for the farm sustainability priority). These maps are similar to those presented above, except that they only include the subset of participants that ranked a specific priority as first or second to them.
Thereafter, additional information from the questionnaire about capacities and willingness and ability to share and build capacity in others is added to the maps, and the details of how this was done, how to read these and key points to consider are presented at that point.
PRIORITY MAPS WITH ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT STRENGTHS/CAPACITIES (Survey Question 13) AND WILLINGNESS AND ABILITY TO HELP OTHERS GAIN SKILLS IN AREAS OF STRENGTH (Survey Question 14).
Here, we use the information provided in the questionnaire responses and add it to the maps, to understand where there is capacity, where it is needed, and what relationships (existing or desired) could be used to build skills and capacities for stewardship in each of the priority areas.
These maps are not intended to be directive, they represent what others told us about their organization or themselves (in the case of individuals). However, we do hope that the maps are helpful in considering future opportunities.
The maps that follow are more complex than previous ones, and so we use the ‘soil health’ priority network as an example, building in more information one step at a time until we arrive at the complete map. After the example, only complete maps are presented.
Building the soil health priority network (example)
It can be difficult to compare the three relationship types for priority networks (advice and idea-seeking, past and current collaboration, and future collaboration). We can combine all three relationships into a single map, using tie colours to show different relationships.
Below, you see the soil health priority network for all three relationship types:
But, we can learn and show more about the organizations. How does each organization rate themselves in terms of their strength in financial support/incentives to support implementation of BMPs (this was the highest reported priority for increasing impact in the questionnaire (see Survey Question 15))? We can use the size of the node to show each organization’s strength in this area:
We can learn and show even more about these organizations: how willing and able are they to share their strengths with others? Here, we change the node colour, using a new scheme to show the extent to which organizations are willing and able to share strengths with others:
‘Rich’ priority networks
Most organizations in the soil health priority network do not have a lot of strength in financial support/incentives to support implementation of BMPs, but there are a few that do, and some of those (e.g., G24, G16, G31) also are at least somewhat willing and able to support skill-building by others. These organizations represent both agricultural and environmental respondents.
There are many future, or desired, collaboration ties (red ties in the map above). These offer opportunities to connect with other organizations with the same priorities and potentially organizations that have the skillset and/or capacities that are needed by others to undertake projects of mutual interest/benefit.
The remainder of these ‘rich’ priority network maps are presented in the same format as the last map. Please refer back to this example if needed.