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November 5, 2008

Upsurge of interest in Social Capital

Search engines around the world are reporting an upsurge in the number of hits on the term ‘social capital’. It is now the internationally accepted concept for expressing social benefit – though Scottish Government is a bit off the pace. Colin Campbell of Assist offers six short definitions.

Assist Social Capital

Definitions of Social Capital

Social Capital: the glue and the lubricant of community life.

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. (Robert Putnam 2000)

Social capital consists of the stock of active connections among people: the trust, mutual understanding, and shared values and behaviours that bind the members of human networks and communities and make cooperative action possible. (Cohen and Prusak 2001)

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)

Social capital refers to the internal social and cultural coherence of society, the norms and values that govern interactions among people and the institutions in which they are embedded. Social capital is the glue that holds societies together and without which there can be no economic growth or human well-being. Without social capital, society at large will collapse. (Christiaan Grootart ‘Social Capital: The Missing Link’)

Social capital refers to the amount of interpersonal trust individuals in a given community have in the institutions and systems that are instituted to benefit their social, economic and political welfare. Social capital differs from other types of capital in that while physical capital is embodied within tangible goods; and human capital is embodied in the skills and knowledge acquired by an individual, social capital exists in relations among people. The concept of social capital refutes the notion that all individuals act in a utilitarian fashion to maximise their own self-interest (Coleman 1990)

Networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate cooperation within or among groups (The Wellbeing of Nations: The Role of Human and Social Capital OECD 2001)

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