Tristan Claridge founded the Institute for Social Capital as a website on social capital in 2005 to help other people wanting to research the concept or apply it to any context. In the beginning, it was not a business and was simply called Social Capital. The website quickly became the number one resource on social capital online.
Tristan was originally interested in how social capital could improve the performance of environmental groups but discovered that, at the time, the concept of social capital was not sufficiently conceptualised to allow for rigorous application. Instead, his research contributed to the theoretical understanding of the concept.
Tristan’s work was clearly needed to help people navigate the complexity of the social capital literature and theories. His mission has always been to help people and, in the process, help them make meaningful changes in the world.
Over time Tristan became increasingly interested in the application of social capital to organisations, particularly to businesses. Tristan has extensive experience in business and has consistently utilised social capital theory in his work.
Tristan now runs the Institute for Social Capital to help organisations of all types to improve their social capital and organisational culture. He continues to conduct research in the field and works with businesses and other organisations on cutting-edge social capital strategies.
Consideration of social capital provides substantial opportunities to improve outcomes anywhere where people work together or where cooperation and positive social action is beneficial – which is just about every human endeavour.
The concept of social capital provides a framework for understanding why and how people collaborate, interact positively, and work together. Understanding social capital allows us to be purposeful and deliberate about how we build and use social capital and identify and reduce the risk of loss of social capital and the likelihood of negative outcomes.
In short, social capital allows people, teams, organisations, projects, and communities to be more effective, productive, and successful.
The website quickly became one of the top resources on social capital theory. The website was visited by over 100,000 people per year. This led to frequent questions and discussions with students and scholars on social capital, as well as consulting requests from around the world.
The website was redeveloped to provide more information and a structure that was easier to navigate.
Tristan continued developing free resources on social capital and redeveloped the website again to add more information including his whitepaper Designing Social Capital Sensitive Participation Methodologies.
Tristan assisted projects on an informal basis while teaching at the University of the Sunshine Coast, and in 2013 started to provide services as Social Capital Research and Training.
As the online resources expanded and the business grew, the website needed to be redeveloped again to make the information more accessible and support the functions of the consulting and training business. From 2017, we published regular articles on social capital and continued the work of synthesising and exploring the complexity of the social capital literature.
As the popularity of our resources increased we received hundreds of emails from researchers and practitioners and decided to create a Facebook group to support collaboration and discourse on social capital. At the same time, our mailing list was growing rapidly and we started collating and sending newsletters on social capital. Around this time we had over 250,000 visitors to the website per year.
As the COVID19 pandemic started to impact in-person interactions, we started organising webinars with prominent social capital scholars and practitioners. Our first event was a Q&A session hosted by Tristan that was attended by over 500 people from over 100 countries across three sessions. We hosted webinars by distinguished scholars such as Prof Robert Putnam, Prof Eric Uslaner, Prof Lindon Robison, and Prof Daniel Aldrich. The webinar series continues to this day and is now organised by the International Social Capital Association.
In May 2021, we hosted a webinar by Professor Robert Putnam titled A reflection on 30 years of social capital research. This event was attended by approximately 2,000 people and generated a lot of interest in the community, which also significantly increased the group size. Throughout 2021 the community became more active with numerous people becoming involved in organising events, mentoring, and other tasks.
To avoid potential confusion between our business and the association, we rebranded to the Institute for Social Capital. Although we continue to support the association, it is independent of our business and governed by a board of directors elected by the members.
From the beginning, we have developed resources to help people wanting to research and apply the concept of social capital. We provided explanation and synthesis of the complex theories of social capital. In recent years, we presented numerous webinars and published articles progressing the concept of social capital. We now present a coherent theory of social capital based on the extensive literature.