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PALS Meeting, Enfield UK 12-14 March 2012

Social Capital

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The Meaning of Social Capital


The main thesis of social capital theory is that relationships matter and can make a difference to communities.

The central idea is that social networks are a valuable asset.

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The Meaning of Social Capital


Social Capital is: The web of relationships that give us a sense of connection, belonging, and community. Built on mutual respect, trust, and reciprocity. Found in almost any relationship - close relationships or casual connections - among individuals and throughout communities. A "bridge" between people from different racial, ethnic, age, or income groups. A "bond" between people who have a lot in common. Good for us - it keeps us healthier and happier! Good for our kids - they do better in school! Good for our communities - they're safer, more pleasant places to live!
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Definitions of Social Capital (1)


Bourdieu: 'Social capital is the 'the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition' (Bourdieu 1983: 249). Coleman: 'Social capital is defined by its function. It is not a single entity, but a variety of different entities, having two characteristics in common: they all consist of some aspect of a social structure, and they facilitate certain actions of individuals who are within the structure' (Coleman 1994: 302).

Definitions of Social Capital (2)


Putnam: 'Whereas physical capital refers to physical objects and human capital refers to the properties of individuals, social capital refers to connections among individuals social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them. In that sense social capital is closely related to what some have called civic virtue. The difference is that social capital calls attention to the fact that civic virtue is most powerful when embedded in a sense network of reciprocal social relations. A society of many virtuous but isolated individuals is not necessarily rich in social capital' (Putnam 2000: 19).
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Definitions of Social Capital (3)


The World Bank: 'Social capital refers to the institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society's social interactions. Social capital is not just the sum of the institutions which underpin a society it is the glue that holds them together' (The World Bank 1999

Networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate co-operation within or among groups (OECD 2001)
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Types of Social Capital


Bonding

Bridging

Linking

Denotes ties between people in similar situations such as immediate family, close friends and neighbours. Encompasses more distant ties like persons such as loose friendships and work colleagues Links/ties to those outside of the community enabling members to access a wider range of resources than are

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Aspects of Social Capital


Civic participation Social networks and support Social participation Voting, taking action on local or national issues Contact with friends & relatives Involvement in groups & voluntary activities Giving and receiving favours, trust in other people

Reciprocity and trust

Views about the local area

Satisfaction/problems with the area

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Features of Social Capital


Social energy Community spirit / good neighbourliness Social bonds Civic virtue/active citizenship Community networks Social resources Informal & formal networks

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Outcomes of Social Capital


Lower crime rates Better health and improved longevity Better educational achievement Greater income equality Enhanced economic achievement

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The Importance of Social Capital (1)


Social capital allows citizens to resolve collective problems more easily People often might be better off if they cooperate, with each doing her share. Social capital greases the wheels that allow communities to advance smoothly. Where people are trusting and trustworthy, and where they are subject to repeated interactions with fellow citizens, everyday business and social transactions are less costly. Social capital improves our lot is by widening our awareness of the many ways in which our fates are linked... When people lack connection to others, they are unable to test the veracity of their own views, whether in the give or take of casual conversation or in more formal deliberation. Without such an opportunity, people are more likely to be swayed by their worse impulses. (Robert Putnam (2000)
Bowling Alone: The collapse and revival of American community, Schuster: 288-290) New York: Simon and

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The Importance of Social Capital (2)


Networks that constitute social capital also serve as conduits for the flow of helpful information that facilitates achieving our goals. Social capital also operates through psychological and biological processes to improve individuals lives.
Community connectedness is not just about warm fuzzy tales of civic triumph. In measurable and welldocumented ways, social capital makes an enormous difference to our lives.
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Policy Applications
Community cohesion
To promote a cohesive community where:
A common vision and a sense of belonging for all communities
Diversity of peoples different backgrounds and circumstances are appreciated and positively valued

Those from different backgrounds have similar life opportunities; and strong and positive relationships are being developed between people from different backgrounds in the workplace, in schools and within neighbourhoods
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Policy Applications
Civil renewal
Local people identifying and solving problems affecting their community
Active citizens who contribute to common good Strengthened communities in which people work together to find solutions to problems Partnership in meeting public needs, with government and agencies giving appropriate support and encouraging people to take part in democracy and influence decisions about their communities

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Social Capital and Lifelong Learning (1)


There is evidence that school childrens performance is influenced positively by the existence of close ties between teachers, parents, neighbours and church ministers (Coleman, 1998). The key conclusion from existing research is that shared norms and stable networks tend to promote intellectual and social development of young people and partly compensates for other disadvantages. Logically, then, it could be concluded that the same must hold true for adult learning. If so, then the better stock of social capital in a community the greater the capacity for mutual learning and improvements in the quality of human capital.
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Social Capital and Lifelong Learning (2)


The key question is do social networks help to create and exchange skills, knowledge and attitudes that in turn allows us to tap into benefits? If we have more social capital (stronger and more extensive networks, then are we more likely to learn new things and thus benefits more than people with less social capital?
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Social Capital and Lifelong Learning (3)


How could we use social capital to promote adult learning? Connection between social capital and lifelong learning has acquired great significance and prominence in EU education and training policy. The concept is also linked to competitiveness and development.
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How access to social capital can benefit lifelong learning


Mastering new technology Enhance (or damage) reputations of providers Influence trust in tutors/trainers Social bonds could shape general attitudes towards change (positive and negative) Affect the capacity of particular groups to survive external shocks.

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Measuring Social Capital


Participation, social engagement, commitment Control, self-efficacy Perception of community level structures or characteristics Social interaction, social networks, social support Trust, reciprocity, social cohesion

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