Designing Social Capital Sensitive Participation Methodologies

Participation methodologies have been evolving and improving since first gaining international recognition in the 1960s. Despite these improvements there are still genuine concerns and criticisms of participation, particularly surrounding its application and effectiveness. The recent advent of social capital theory provides another lens for the analysis and ensuing improvement of participation methodologies. Social capital theory encompasses the notion that our social relationships are productive in nature; that is, ‘capital’. The theory describes the various dimensions of the complex social world that enable this capital. Both participation and social capital theories have many similarities; both are poorly defined, conceptualized and operationalized in both debate and application. The two concepts are highly context specific and highly complex. Individually, the concepts still require further analysis to answer key questions, particularly about appropriate application. Jointly, little work has been done to identify the impacts that they have on each other and particularly how social capital benefits can be maximized in participatory methodologies.

This study explored the theories with extensive literature reviews of each concept before breaking new ground with an integration of the two theories. This synthesis was then applied to a case study; an IFAD funded project in Zimbabwe. The project’s participatory methodology was analysed through the lens of social capital theory. The participatory methods analysed included; focus groups, public meetings, information dissemination and questionnaires. The analysis highlighted the potential importance of social capital sensitive participatory methodologies. Despite the efforts of the project development team, there were numerous oversights or missed opportunities where the project and community could have benefited from variations to the methodology used. It was found that by providing opportunities for repeat interaction in the participatory methodologies, social capital benefits could be maximised. It was also stressed that any social capital sensitive participatory methodology is by definition local context specific and application of such methods require careful analysis of the local context in which it is being applied.

2 comments on “Designing Social Capital Sensitive Participation Methodologies
  1. Jayne Meyer Tucker says:

    The last comment: any social capital sensitive participatory methodology is by definition local context specific and application of such methods require analysis of the local context in which it is being applied…. Says it all for me! I’ve just found your site and as a PhD student on a quest to further understand localism in the Australian context I see a strong link with social capital and am pleased to learn more through your work.

    • Tristan Claridge says:

      Thanks for your comment Jayne. I am glad you found this research useful. I’d be great to hear more about your PhD as it progresses.

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