Building Social Capital

A fundamental question is whether social capital can be increased in the short term. This question is further complicated by the debate over whether social capital can be measured, as without measurement, change cannot be determined. According to Putnam (1993)[1] , social capital is largely determined by historical factors; it can thus not be enhanced in the short term. This view has been challenged in the literature. Petersen (2002)[2] posited that social capital creation is possible be definition. This is supported by Schmid (2000)[3] and Uslaner (2001)[4] who saw social capital development as a by-product of other activities. Falk and Harrison (1998)[5] suggested that it is possible to build social capital in the short term and that this is also known as capacity building. Social capital can be produced by the government, nongovernmental organizations, local societal actors and external actors in the civil society, both in combination and in isolation (Cernea 1993[6] ; Huntoon 2001[7] ; Mondal 2000[8] ). Insufficient attention has been paid to the variety of locations where social capital can be generated, inhibited, and appropriated, and the role played by other actors, such as public institutions in this process (Heller 1996[9] ; Maloney et al. 2000[10] ; Preece 2002[11] ). To better explain the production of social capital, analytical frameworks need to account for widely varying outcomes in terms of time, space and social groups (Fox 1996[12] ; Lorensen 2002[13] ; Minkoff 1997[14] ). Soubeyran and Weber (2002)[15] posited that social capital can be created through repeated exchange and face-to-face contacts, which is facilitated by geographic proximity. Maloney, Smith et al (2000)[15] suggested that there is a lack of research into generation, maintenance, and destruction of social capital.

Onyx and Bullen (2000)[16] believed that the development of social capital requires the active and willing engagement of citizens within a participative community. Social capital building exercises initiated by the state have been identified as weak due to distant ties, therefore social capital building must occur through outsourcing by government (Onyx and Bullen 2001[17] ; Taylor 2000[18] ; Warner 1999[19] ). This supports Lowndes and Wilson’s (2001)[20] theory that the best way for government to increase social capital is to be involved in indirect social capital building. Warner (2001) posited that local government is better placed to create local social capital through community based interventions. Cox and Caldwell (2000)[21] identified that the key social dynamics for building social capital occur in the non-intimate and non-exclusive groups. Falk and Harrison (1998)[21] had a different view, suggesting that social capital building can be equated with capacity building in terms of community development. The use of social capital in any of its forms does not deplete the supply of social capital (Lyons 2000[22] ; Turner 1999[23] ). Some authors suggest that use of social capital in fact enhances the supply of social capital. From this debate it is clear that some authors conceptualize social capital as either a flow or stock resource (Walker and Kogut 1997[24] ; Wilson 1997[25] ; Woolcock 2002a[26] ). There is limited understanding of the processes and how they operate to build or improve social capital structure.


  1. Putnam, Robert D. 1993. “The prosperous community: Social capital and public life.” The American Prospect 4. ^
  2. Petersen, Dana M. 2002. “The Potential of Social Capital Measures in the Evaluation of Comprehensive Community-Based Health Initiatives.” The American Journal of Evaluation 23: 55-64. ^
  3. Schmid, A. Allan. 2000. “Affinity as social capital: its role in development.” The Journal of Socio-Economics 29: 159. ^
  4. Uslaner, Eric M. 2001. “Volunteering and social capital: how trust and religion shape civic participation in the United States.” Pp. 104 – 117 in Social Capital and Participation in Everyday Life, edited by Eric M. Uslaner. London: Routledge. ^
  5. Falk, Ian, and Lesley Harrison. 1998. ‘Indicators of Social Capital: social capital as the product of local interactive learning processes.” Pp. 23. Launceston: Centre for Research and Leaning in Regional Australia. ^
  6. Cernea, Michael M. 1993. ‘The sociologist’s approach to sustainable development.’ Finance Development 30: 11-15. ^
  7. Huntoon, Laura. 2001. ‘Government use of nonprofit organizations to build social capital.’ The Journal of Socio-Economics 30: 157. ^
  8. Mondal, Abdul Hye. 2000. “Social capital formation: the role of NGO rural development programs in Bangladesh.” Policy Sciences 33: 459-475. ^
  9. Heller, Patrick. 1996. ‘Social capital as a product of class mobilization and state intervention: Industrial workers in Kerala, India.” World Development 24: 1055-1071. ^
  10. Maloney, William, A., Graham Smith, and Gerry Stoker. 2000. “Social capital and associational life.” Pp. 212-225 in Social Capital: Critical Perspectives, edited by Tom Schuller. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ^
  11. Preece, Jenny. 2002. “Supporting community and building social capital.” Association for Computing Machinery. Communications of the ACM 45: 37-39. ^
  12. Fox, Jonathan. 1996. ‘How does civil society thicken? the political construction of social capital in rural Mexico.’ World Development 24: 1089-1103. ^
  13. Lorensen, Marianna. 2002. ‘Building social capital.’ Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences 94: 80. ^
  14. Minkoff, Debra C. 1997. “Producing Social Capital: National Social Movements and Civil Society.” American Behavioral Scientist 40: 606-619. ^
  15. Soubeyran, Antoine, and Shlomo Weber. 2002. “District formation and local social capital: a (tacit) co-opetition approach.” Journal of Urban Economics 52: 65-92. ^
  16. Onyx, Jenny, and Paul Bullen. 2000. “Sources of social capital.” Pp. 105 – 135 in Social capital and public policy in Australia, edited by Ian Winter. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. ^
  17. Onyx, Jenny, and Paul Bullen. 2001. “The different faces of social capital in NSW Australia.” Pp. 45 – 58 in Social Capital and Participation in Everyday Life, edited by Eric M. Uslaner. London: Routledge. ^
  18. Taylor, Marilyn. 2000. “Communities in the lead:  Power, organisational capacity and social capital.” Urban Studies 37: 1019-1035. ^
  19. Warner, Mildred. 1999. “Social capital construction and the role of the local state.” Rural Sociology 64: 373-393. ^
  20. Lowndes, Vivien, and David Wilson. 2001. ‘Social capital and local governance: Exploring the institutional design variable.” Political Studies 49: 629-647. ^
  21. Cox, Eva, and Peter Caldwell. 2000. ‘Making policy social.’ Pp. 43 – 73 in Social capital and public policy in Australia, edited by Ian Winter. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. ^
  22. Lyons, Mark. 2000. ‘Non-profit organisations, social capital and social policy in Australia.” Pp. 165 – 191 in Social capital and public policy in Australia, edited by Ian Winter. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. ^
  23. Turner, Jonathan H. 1999. “The formation of social capital.” Pp. 94-147 in Social Capital: A multifaceted perspective, edited by Ismail Serageldin. Washington, DC: World Bank. ^
  24. Walker, Gordon, and Bruce Kogut. 1997. “Social Capital, Structural Holes and the Formation of an Industry Network.” Organization Science: A Journal of the Institute of Management Sciences 8: 109. ^
  25. Wilson, Patricia A. 1997. “Building Social Capital: A Learning Agenda for the Twenty-first Century.” Urban Studies 34: 745-760. ^
  26. Woolcock, Geoffrey. 2002a. “Social capital and community development: Fad, friend or foe?” in Queensland Local Government Community Services Association Annual Conference. Rockhampton. ^
One comment on “Building Social Capital
  1. Dr. Birendra Suna says:

    So lucidly generalise and arrive to particular context, its very fantastic work.

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