Mark Granovetter’s seminal paper “the strength of weak ties” has famously shown that weak social links, which reach outside of one’s group of good friends can provide access to crucial new information, which could not otherwise be gained through strong links within one’s immediate community. Our studies from several countries and diverse contexts show that specifically long-distance links are crucial for innovation and resilience. Using data from Japan, which is the only comprehensive national supply network dataset of its kind in the world, we demonstrate that supply chains can work as important channels for the flow of information, innovation, and productivity between firms.  Using original data combined with network interventions in developing countries, we show that farmers with friends in distant regions manage their land better because they learn from experiences in different environments. Professionals who collaborate across diverse locations benefit from access to diverse types of knowledge and slum dwellers with contacts outside of their suburbs are more likely to escape poverty. A lot is expected from new technologies to foster these long links – but can they really help?

Speaker:  Dr Petr Matous, Complex Systems Research Group, University of Sydney

Dr Petr Matous has been organising experimental interventions and social surveys in diverse communities across Asia and Africa to empirically elucidate the role of social networks in contexts constrained by limited resources or environmental disasters. Dr Matous applies novel statistical methods to these unique data sets to model the mechanisms of dynamic interactions between interpersonal or inter-organisational networks and their technological and natural environment.


Chamberlain building