Sun. Jun 16th, 2024
Principles of working in communities

Meaning of social capital

The word “social capital” refers to a beneficial outcome of interpersonal engagement. The beneficial result could be measurable or intangible and could consist of favours, helpful knowledge, original concepts, and upcoming opportunities. Social capital is not something that an individual owns; rather, it is potential that exists through links in social networks between people.

Social capital refers to the collective value of social networks, relationships, and connections within a community or society that can facilitate cooperation, collaboration, and mutual support among individuals and groups. It encompasses the resources embedded in social relationships, including trust, norms, reciprocity, shared values, and social interactions that enable people to work together and achieve common goals.

In simpler terms, social capital is the social glue that binds individuals and communities together, fostering a sense of belonging, shared identity, and a willingness to cooperate for the greater good. It plays a crucial role in various aspects of society, such as community development, economic growth, political engagement, and overall well-being. The concept of social capital highlights the idea that social networks and relationships have inherent value and can lead to positive outcomes for individuals and society as a whole.

social capital

Definition of social capital

Various international organizations provide slightly different definitions of social capital, reflecting their specific focuses and perspectives. Here are definitions of social capital from a few prominent international organizations:

The World Bank defines social capital as “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.”

World Bank

The UNDP describes social capital as “the networks, together with shared norms, values, and understandings, that facilitate co-operation within or among groups.”

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

The OECD characterizes social capital as “networks together with shared norms, values, and understandings that facilitate cooperation within or among groups.”

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

These definitions highlight the common themes of networks, relationships, shared norms, trust, and cooperation that characterize social capital, emphasizing its role in facilitating collective action, collaboration, and overall societal well-being.

Social capital is the term used to describe the connections and ties that people make through friendships and acquaintances. Through friendship groups, or by knowing a friend of a friend, these connections can develop. Or, they could happen naturally in everyday social encounters. For instance, you could talk to the individual on the train who is seated next to you.

The idea of “social capital” tries to highlight the value of interpersonal relationships both within and between communities. It mainly implies that social networks have a value attached to them and are not always harmful as previously believed.

A group of people who share certain ideals or resources are said to have social capital, which enables them to collaborate well to accomplish a common goal. An alternative definition of social capital is the capacity to access resources, favours, or knowledge through one’s personal connections.

In most cases, the concept is utilised to explain how members of a society might work together to live in harmony. By fostering a feeling of shared values and respect among employees, social capital can help a business succeed.

A group of individuals can effectively collaborate in order to accomplish a shared objective or purpose thanks to social capital. Through trust and a sense of common identity, conventions, values, and interpersonal relationships, it enables a society or organisation, such as a corporation or non-profit, to work as a unit. Simply said, social interactions are the means by which social capital helps society. As a result, social sciences are replete with research on how social capital functions or does not function.

Types of Social Capital

Social capital can be classified into different types based on the nature and scope of social relationships and interactions. The main types of social capital include:

  1. Bonding Social Capital: This type of social capital refers to the strong ties and connections among individuals within a close-knit group, such as family, friends, or members of a specific community. Bonding social capital fosters a sense of belonging, support, and shared identity among group members.
  2. Bridging Social Capital: Bridging social capital involves connections and interactions between individuals from diverse backgrounds, groups, or communities. It focuses on building relationships that span different social networks, facilitating the exchange of information, resources, and opportunities beyond immediate circles.
  3. Linking Social Capital: Linking social capital pertains to relationships and connections between individuals or groups and formal institutions, organizations, or authorities. These connections can provide access to resources, services, and opportunities that might not be available otherwise, helping individuals navigate bureaucratic systems.
  4. Cognitive Social Capital: This type of social capital emphasizes shared values, norms, and beliefs within a community or society. It involves the collective understanding of common rules, expectations, and cultural practices that guide interactions and cooperation.
  5. Structural Social Capital: Structural social capital focuses on the tangible aspects of social networks, such as the size, density, and nature of connections within a community. It relates to the physical and organizational structures that enable social interactions and collaboration.
  6. Normative Social Capital: Normative social capital emphasizes the shared norms, values, and expectations that guide behavior within a community. It involves a sense of trust, reciprocity, and social cohesion that encourages individuals to cooperate and work together for mutual benefit.
  7. Resource-Based Social Capital: Resource-based social capital emphasizes the access to resources and benefits that individuals gain through their social networks. These resources can include information, financial support, employment opportunities, and other forms of assistance.
  8. Emotional Social Capital: Emotional social capital refers to the support, empathy, and emotional connections that individuals derive from their social relationships. It involves feelings of trust, attachment, and emotional well-being that arise from positive interactions with others.
  9. Instrumental Social Capital: Instrumental social capital focuses on the practical benefits and advantages gained from social connections. It involves utilizing relationships to achieve specific goals, such as finding a job, obtaining information, or accessing resources.
  10. Religious or Spiritual Social Capital: This type of social capital is based on religious or spiritual affiliations and interactions. It involves the social networks and support systems that arise from shared religious beliefs and practices.

These types of social capital are interconnected and can interact in complex ways within societies and communities. They play distinct roles in shaping social interactions, cooperation, and overall well-being.

Advantages of Social Capital

A capital asset is one that contributes to raising production efficiency. Therefore, social capital is defined as the social resources that contribute to raising production efficiency. It can be viewed as a social engagement that enables us to create new networks and connections. Or, it could just be building relationships with people that improve communication and productivity. This may be accomplished through positive interactions with suppliers, as well as with co-workers and employees. Through social links, this relationship may encourage employee motivation. It may also result in suppliers who are more accommodating and adaptable.

The greater managerial performance, efficient supply chains, mergers and acquisitions, and increased performance of various groups all occur in some organisations, which can be explained in part by social capital.

Importance of social capital to social workers

Social capital holds significant importance for social workers in their efforts to effectively support and empower individuals, families, and communities. Here are several ways in which social capital is important to social workers:

  1. Strengthening Support Networks: Social workers can leverage existing social networks and relationships to provide additional support to their clients. By tapping into the social capital of individuals and communities, social workers can help create a stronger safety net and access resources that might not be available through formal channels.
  2. Enhancing Community Engagement: Social workers often work within communities to address social issues and promote well-being. Social capital allows them to connect with community members, leaders, and organizations, enabling them to engage in collaborative efforts and initiatives that lead to positive change.
  3. Building Trust: Social capital is built on trust and shared values. Social workers who understand and respect the social norms and values of the communities they serve can establish deeper connections with their clients. This trust is crucial for effective communication, cooperation, and the development of meaningful interventions.
  4. Fostering Empowerment: Empowering individuals and communities involves enabling them to use their own strengths and resources. Social workers can help clients tap into their social capital, empowering them to take an active role in addressing their challenges and making informed decisions.
  5. Facilitating Information Sharing: Social capital includes access to information and knowledge within social networks. Social workers can facilitate the sharing of information related to health, education, employment, and other essential services, thereby improving the well-being of their clients.
  6. Promoting Social Inclusion: Social capital contributes to a sense of belonging and social integration. Social workers can work to reduce social isolation by connecting individuals to groups, clubs, and organizations, helping them become active participants in their communities.
  7. Advocacy and Policy Change: Social workers often advocate for policy changes to address systemic issues. By harnessing social capital, they can mobilize communities and individuals to support advocacy efforts, creating a stronger collective voice for change.
  8. Cultural Competency: Understanding the cultural context and social dynamics of the populations they serve is essential for social workers. Social capital aids in developing cultural competence, enabling social workers to navigate and respect diverse perspectives.
  9. Sustainability of Interventions: Sustainable change often requires community ownership and collaboration. Social capital ensures that interventions have a greater chance of success as they are supported and maintained by the community itself.
  10. Resilience and Coping: Social capital contributes to individual and community resilience. Social workers can help individuals draw on their social networks during times of crisis, aiding in coping and recovery.

Thus, social capital is a valuable resource that enhances the effectiveness of social workers’ interventions and strengthens the overall impact of their efforts in promoting social well-being and positive change.

By Admin