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Using social network analysis to explore community engagement for out-of-school youth (OSY) in the Mindanao region of the Philippines

William N. Faulkner (Flux Research, Monitoring and Evaluation, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA)
Apollo Nkwake (Education Development Center, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA)
Nancy Wallace (Education Development Center, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA)
Alejandra Bonifaz (Education Development Center, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 1 September 2020

Issue publication date: 10 March 2021




Operating in both traditional schools and alternative learning systems (ALS) requires organizations to have a strong understanding of what drives the cultural acceptance of violence and the capacity of the local populace to find peaceful solutions. This paper explores the results from a formative social network analysis (SNA) study on out-of-school youth (OSY) in the Philippines for educational programming in crisis settings. SNA views relationships in terms of nodes and ties – nodes are the individual actors in networks, and ties are the relationships between the actors. As part of a process evaluation, SNA can shed light into the “black box” of how and why people and groups interact.


Study data came from a survey of 1,006 youth between the ages of 18–24, in a cluster-randomized sample from eight municipalities in Mindanao, Philippines. The survey captured information on demographics, acceptance of violence, resilience and the relationships between youth/voluntary organizations, as well as between youth/trusted contacts (“alters”). These data were transformed into findings using both descriptive techniques and regression analysis.


This paper finds that among Mindanao youth, the patterns connecting OSY with organizations, trusted contacts, acceptance of violence and resilience are extremely complex. The evidence paints a picture of OSY who are disconnected with institutional support, largely confined to their barangays (villages/neighborhoods) and surrounded by people who have overlapping roles as neighbors, relatives and friends. The analysis fails to outline a single, unified picture and instead reveals a tapestry of disparate points. More abstractly, SNA as a methodology captures a unique slice of the complexity of youths’ lives and how aspects of this complexity evince the need for more effort to be put into adapting OSY programming to local conditions. The results also support previous research highlighting how push and pull factors combine in uniquely individual ways that defy general demographic patterns. Demographic variables, for example, explain little of the variation in youths’ perceptions of violence and resilience, despite the strong significance of gender, age and urban/rural residence in most models. Variables for ethnicity and religion, in contrast, generally did not significantly influence acceptance of violence or perceived resilience.

Social implications

From the constellation of findings, this study posits the following conclusions: regarding future development projects, practitioners can use SNA to better understand the complex patterns of influence on OSY at the community level. There is still ample opportunity to broaden and deepen institutional engagement with Mindanao’s OSY population. Programs hoping to involve OSY should expect to dedicate special time, attention and resources to their recruitment, education and training. Regarding the design of interventions, programs focusing on mitigating or addressing violence/violent extremism should acknowledge the complexity of social networks. Education programs should thus be explicit about specific desired outcomes, elaborating how they intend to mitigate which types of violence and under what circumstances for which subgroups of youth.


Regarding future research and evaluation, the study demonstrates how SNA, as an innovative monitoring and evaluation method, can map and measure human and organizational relationships, both visually and mathematically. The suite of methods under the SNA umbrella deserve greater attention and use by those seeking to learn about what works in providing quality educational services in crisis settings.



This research and publication would not have been possible without the youth of Mindanao. The authors thank Mr Mirshariff Tillah, USAID Education Specialist, for his vision and technical insights, along with Dr Miriam Pahm (MYDev Chief of Party) and Dr Maria Theresa Mokamad (MYDev Deputy Chief of Party) for their leadership and technical insights.

This study was made possible by the generous support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this publication are the responsibility of Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) and Flux Research, Monitoring and Evaluation and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.


Faulkner, W.N., Nkwake, A., Wallace, N. and Bonifaz, A. (2021), "Using social network analysis to explore community engagement for out-of-school youth (OSY) in the Mindanao region of the Philippines", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 29 No. 1, pp. 1-14.



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