An inside look into the structure of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community during the 2015 Annual Meeting

THE GIST: As part of the World Economic Forum, the Global Shapers Community is a worldwide network of hubs that are developed and led by young people to work on projects that have the potential to make lasting positive contributions to society. Using the research tools from social network analysis I draw a few surprising inferences about the structure of this community.

I love studying networks. Looking into the deep structures of a complex social system can reveal important features and patterns of relations that can open our minds and broaden our horizons.

Networks provide extraordinary insights and new ways of thinking about the ordinary things that surround us. I am especially interested in social networks — the abstract patterns of relationships that we are continuously shaping in both our offline and online lives, as we interact with our families, coworkers, friends and strangers.

The interesting thing about visualising a network is that it allows you to take a bird’s eye perspective to discover the surprising connections around you. Social network analysis can be used not only to better understand how social groups are structured and how information spreads through these groups, but also to predict human behaviour.

As a member of the Global Shapers community, I had the privilege and unique opportunity to combine some of my research skills from my DPhil programme with the social impact activities at our local Oxford Hub. Over the past year, I have set up and managed our @OxfordShapers Twitter account and have tried to get a better understanding of the evolution of the Hub network from a broader academic perspective.

As of January 2014, there are now 4667 members of the Global Shapers community in 402 Hubs worldwide. But how is this community structured? What are the patterns of connections that govern the way how information flows through this social system? Given the global scale of the network, one would expect a fairly fragmented network with many internally-connected social clusters and only few connections between them.

However, the results from my social network analysis suggest quite the contrary. Here are some of the insights that I was able to gather just by looking at the very structure of the Global Shapers community. Based on a sample of 2087 Shapers on Facebook (44.7% of all Shapers) I have found that the community appears to be quite dense with an overall clustering coefficient of 0.46. This implies a fairly integrated and coherent network with many interconnections between the global Hubs.

The average degree in the network is 18.24, which implies that, on average, each Global Shaper knows 18 other Shapers in the community. In 2013, each Shaper only knew on average 14 other Shapers, which hints at the creation of many new friendship ties within the community. This is probably due to the large number of cross-hub collaborations and other events that took place last year.

The most connected person in the Global Shapers community is (unsurprisingly) the Head of Global Hub Activity, Anastasia Kalinina, who personally knows 610 Shapers. She is followed by other members of the Global Shapers Leadership team: Melih Nurluel with 443 Shapers in his personal network and Vijaj Raju, who personally knows 410 Shapers. The most connected ‘normal’ Shapers were Giovanni Porcellana from the Turin Hub with 377 Shapers in his personal network, and my fellow Oxford University graduate and friend Noa Gafni from the London Hub with 365 Shapers in her personal network.

Furthermore, the network is not only fairly interconnected in terms of the existing friendship ties, but also in terms of the conversations that are happening in the central Facebook group of the Global Shapers. A detailed look at the group reveals that over the past year 197 wall-posts were shared. These posts received 504 comments and 2221 likes from the community. This is an above-average level of engagement for a Facebook group. Wall-posts with links and plain text received more than twice as much engagement compared to wall-posts with images and videos only.

In 2014, the most active Shaper in this group was Caroline Parisi from the Luxembourg City Hub, while the most engaged Shaper was Rosalin Abigail Kyere-Nartey from the Kumasi Hub.

On Twitter, the Global Shapers community also grew substantially during the past year with a daily average of + 135 new followers and + 54 new tweets. The most active Hub during the #52w52c campaign was the Hub that took over the GS Twitter account during the second week of May 2014. Retrospectively, the Hub that got the most attention from the Global Shapers account was the Abuja Hub with 23 reply tweets and 87 retweets. However, in January 2014 two other Twitter accounts dominate the Global Shapers Twitter network: @wef and @davos.

What follows are some visualisations of the data mentioned above. I would love to hear your opinion on this. Feel free to comment, tweet me @slavacm or write a response!

Friendship network of 2000 members of the Global Shapers community across 400 Hubs on Facebook
Public conversation network of the 2000 members of the Global Shapers community on Facebook
Friendship network of the Oxford Hub of the Global Shapers on Facebook
Public conversation network between the members of the Oxford Hub on Facebook

Images credit: Vyacheslav Polonski (CC-BY)

About the author: Vyacheslav (@slavacm) is a doctoral candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute and a Visiting Fellow at Harvard University. He researches social networks and the psychology of technology adoption and is a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum.

Vyacheslav Polonski, PhD

Written by

UX Research @Google | Forbes 30 Under 30 | DPhil/PhD | Global Shaper & Expert Network @WEF | Prevsly @UniofOxford @OIIoxford @Harvard @LSE

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