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Our philosophy & Approach


Our approach to social capital is the result of over 20 years of experience researching and applying the concept. We have not just read the extensive academic literature on social capital; we have worked tirelessly to make sense of it and help other researchers too. We have asked the difficult questions to probe the meaning of the various meanings, aspects, and dimensions of social capital and the underlying theory and assumptions.

We have embraced theories from various disciplines and explored the deeper theoretical foundations. We have established the logic of social capital and clarified what it is, what it does, and where it comes from. The result is an approach that is theoretically grounded, logically consistent, and balanced. We have deployed this approach in various contexts and further refined and adapted it to suit the various contexts to which social capital can be applied.

We believe that success is about people and their relationships with each other. We think organisational success is achieved when people are empowered. When they feel a sense of belonging and loyalty to the organisation. When there is trust and support, and when they know each other, support each other, and can draw on the strengths and resources of each other to achieve great things – for themselves and for the organisation.

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Social Capital in Practice

A general guide for the practical application of social capital

It breaks down the complexity of social capital into more easily understood components. It establishes the logic of social capital and provides a framework that is suitable for any application. It helps build the understanding required for the purposeful and systematic application of social capital.

Theoretically grounded

Our approach to social capital connects with the deeper meaning of being social and engaging in positive social action. We appreciate that social capital requires two components: people must be connected otherwise there are limited opportunities for positive social action; and people must be inclined or predisposed to act and act positively when opportunities arise.

Logically consistent

We embrace the logic of capital and how investment can create a stock of future benefits and returns. As a form of capital, it represents a stock of future benefit. We can invest by building relationships, developing trust, creating productive social norms, and establishing effective groups and organisations. This investment creates the ability, capacity, and potential that is social capital.


Social issues can be very complex and although there is value in creating models that simplify the social world we believe that this can cause problems when the complexity of the local context is oversimplified or ignored. As a result, we approach data collection from a qualitative perspective. We prefer not to distil the complexity of social phenomenon to a single number or even a set of numbers. However, at times there is an important role for quantitative data, especially in monitoring and evaluation processes.


We don’t approach social capital and organisational culture from any single perspective but prefer to learn and utilise lessons from every discipline that has something to contribute to this topic. We find wisdom in psychology, sociology, social psychology, economics, business management, political science, and even biology as well as all the other disciplines that have applied social capital theory to their context. We believe the most exciting and innovative work occurs across and between disciplines.


We believe that people are empowered when they are involved in the creation of change that relates to them. When people contribute to problem solving they have ownership in the process and initiatives are more likely to be successful.


We believe there is a careful balance – more of something is not always better: ownership but not entitlement, socialisation but not time wasting, trust with healthy questioning (distrust). Finding a balance requires careful observations of the organisational ecosystem and requires ongoing monitoring. We don’t believe there is a single right way to do things and that each context requires modification of the strategy to achieve optimal outcomes.

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Our Approach Is...


Connected to the meaning of what it is to be social and engage in cooperation and positive social action


Based on the logic of capital and how investment can create a stock of future benefits and returns


Based on extensive research from across the social sciences but goes beyond narrow academic definitions


Capable of incorporating the complexity of social capital in a relatively easy way to understand and apply


Our approach provides a framework for mastering and applying social capital in purposeful and deliberate ways


Understands the importance of the activation context in contributing to desirable outcomes


Understands individuals, organisations, and coordinating institutions all play important but different roles


Appreciates that, like other forms of capital, social capital is not one thing that does one thing


Appreciates that not everyone has the same access to social capital and its use for various reasons

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