Social Network Analysis

Conducted by Dr. Noa Kekuewa Lincoln, Hunter Heaivilin, Dr. Svenja Telle, Dr. Sothy Eng

Executive Summary: This research explored the collaborative environment of the individuals and organizations working on enhancing local food production and access in Hawai’i state.  Four independent data sets were collected:

  1. A targeted statewide survey of influential individuals,
  2. An open survey of participants at the Hawai’i Island Food Summit,
  3. A survey of individuals in the University of Hawai‘i system identified working on food systems, and
  4. Constructed networks of the several key networks related to local food related to the stated goals of the Transforming Hawai‘i’s Food Systems Together project

An interactive Social Network Connections visualization shows the overall growth of actors and links over time. This encouraging graphic shows not only the growth of actors in Hawai’i’s food system over time, but also increased connectivity of those players. Further investigation of patterns of actors (individuals as nodes) and links (edges between individuals) by sector and location are compiled in an interactive dashboard

Non-profits are really proliferating within the local food system, and driving interconnectedness of our food system as a whole.

Key Findings:

Identify core organizations and networks in order of importance as (1) farmer representation networks such as the Hawai’i Farmers’ Union United and Hawai’i Farm Bureau, (2) organizations providing farmer assistance, such as HDOA, Kohala Center, and CTAHR, and (3) non-profits focused on system-level change in the food systems such as Hawai’i Good Food Alliance and the Agricultural Leadership Foundation. 

Identify gaps in represented by poor connections to important networks, in order of importance, as (1) such as to the Hawai’i Food Industry Association and Hawaii Food Manufacturers Association, (2) funders and other philanthropic representatives. The analysis further identifies agencies that are conspicuously absent as (1) any connections to the military or the Department of Defense, (2) the Agricultural Development Corporation, and (3) the Agricultural Diagnostics Services Center. While not absent, representatives of key tourism agencies as well as the Department of Hawaiian Homelands were considered underrepresented. 

Assess the social network of the THFST team and advisory board. The THFST project was found to have exceptional network reach, with main limitations extending into gaps identified above. However, substantial programmatic overlap was identified between the social networks of THFST and the “Ag Hui,” and to a lesser extent the Hawai’i Good Food Alliance. 

Amalgamate the 173 governmental positions identified as key collaborators in transforming Hawai’i’s Food System to represent the most important agencies, as well as the breadth of agencies, that need to be leveraged for effective application. 

Conclude that the University of Hawai’i system has highly effective activities, such as Go Farm, Kapiolani Culinary Center, and the Maui Innovation Center, but also that the research component of the University is highly insular and likely servicing an agricultural research sector rather than the local agricultural sector.

Key Findings: Governmental Players

Excluding University employees, 173 individuals were identified from Federal, State, and County governments, representing a broad cross section of departments.  While major players were unsurprising (USDA and NRCS at the national level; HDOA and to a lesser extent HDOE and HDOH at the state level; and the Offices of Economic Development at the county level), the breadth of governmental services that were highlighted as being essential for work in the food systems is illuminating.  A complete list of governmental offices and the number of individuals identified is included in the report. We suggest a follow up study in which these offices are asked for more detail on their role and potential impacts on local food systems. 

Farm and University actors have the greatest number of long-term links, representing 10+ year interactions, present in the 2011 time slice. In 2020, the highest counts of new links, presumably part of COVID-19 response, were between Government and Non-Profits, Intergovernmental, followed by Farms and Non-profit organizations.