Social capital

The “glue” that holds a community together.

  • Built through people doing things together to help each other, and seeing things improve as a result.
  • Spent when there’s an emergency, or someone needs help: if there’s enough social capital, people will cluster round and help in ways that are above and beyond what might be expected.
  • It tends to generate its own positive feedback cycle, so the more it is built and spent, the more of it there is available.
  • It’s about relationships between people in the community, about doing things for the greater good, about feeling good about joining in.

Building communities and social capital go hand in hand. It’s the “soft” stuff that is very intangible, but talking about it using the term ‘social capital’ means it can be more easily identified and used in models, theories, and the development of professional practice.

Is the image of “social capital” directly comparable to that of economic capital, or environmental capital (resources and potential available in the natural environment) for instance? This comparison seems to have been drawn, but how far does the metaphor stretch?


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