Mapping Your Social Network

From The Encourager Newsletter Issue#002 June 2003. Copyright © 2003 by Don H. Morris.

Create a map of your social network. This exercise is especially helpful for people experiencing special circumstances, such as serious illness, disability, divorce, or job loss.

  1. Make a list of all your needs. Break them up into categories that are meaningful to you, beginning with instrumental and expressive. Get a close friend or family member to help you remember what you needed help with in the past six months (or whatever time period makes sense to you). Be sure to include the intangible emotional needs as well as the concrete practical tasks that must be done.
  2. Write down the names of all the people who have helped you with each of these needs in the past six months.
  3. Write down the names of other people you could ask to assist you with each need. In addition to friends, family, and colleagues, are there any agencies, service organizations, support groups, churches, or special interest groups that you can request assistance from? For ideas in this area, see Assembling Your Team for the Game of Life.
  4. Look over the map to see if there are any holes (needs going unmet). Consider why this is happening. Remove any barriers that prevent you from requesting assistance with those needs. If you do not know anyone who can assist you with these needs, how can you create new relationships?
  5. Look for patterns in your social network map. Ask questions like the following.
    • Are you only getting help from family and friends, not from appropriate organizations?
    • Do you ask for help only from strangers, fearing to burden your friends and family?
    • Are you calling upon just a few people for almost everything?
    • Does one person meet more than one need?
    • Can someone you rarely utilize be asked to assist more often?
    • Is there a way to “spread the load” to prevent burnout?
  6. Note the ways you reciprocate by meeting the needs of the people in your social network. Make plans to do this more.
  7. Be creative. Think about other ways you can use the information you gain from constructing your social network map. Invent new ways to show appreciation for the people who help you most.
  8. One way to make the chart for your social network map.
    • Take a blank sheet of paper.
    • Make three equal columns by drawing two lines all the way down the page.
    • Label the column on the left “Need.”
    • Label the middle column “Who Has Helped in the Past?”
    • Label the column on the right “Who Can Help in the Future?”
    • For each need, write in the names of the people who have helped meet this need in the past six months. Then write in the names of potential helpers you can request assistance from in the future.
    • Use a different sheet for each type of need (instrumental, expressive, or a category you choose).

Social Network Map

Name: ________________ Date: _____________

Current Needs Who Has Helped in the past? Who Can Help in the Future?
____________ ____________ ____________
____________ ___________ ____________
___________ ____________ ____________
___________ ___________ ____________
___________ ____________ ____________
____________ ____________ ____________
____________ ____________ ____________
___________ ____________ ____________
____________ ____________ ____________
___________ ___________ ____________
____________ ____________ ____________

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