Introduction to Social Capital Theory


This course provides a general introduction to social capital theory from an academic perspective. It is designed to be easy to understand however an academic background is beneficial and some content has an academic focus. If you are thinking about studying, researching, or applying social capital theory then this course is for you. The course presents and explains the different theoretical and disciplinary approaches to social capital. It also includes an excellent critique of social capital theory that includes key lessons to improve your project.


Anyone wanting to study, research, or apply social capital theory. It is academic and supported by the key literature on social capital.

For someone approaching social capital theory for the first time the challenge of understanding the concept of social capital can seem immense. There are numerous definitions, different levels of analysis, and different terminology that is often used interchangeably. When reading literature on social capital one tends to find ambiguity, variability, inconsistencies, and contradiction.

This course helps to cut through the confusion. It provides direction on what is and is not social capital, including the basis for the different perspectives on social capital. The course helps to identify a suitable definition and to understand the dimensions of social capital. This course provides a guide to help you avoid the common mistakes made by social capital researchers and practitioners.


This course aims to provide a solid introductory understanding of social capital theory.


There is a short quiz at the end of this course to help you test your knowledge. You can progress through the course material at your own pace.


Once you have completed this course you will have a good general understanding of social capital theory.


  • Social capital and its benefits and downsides
  • The main conceptual approaches and their history and evolution
  • The factors that complicate social capital theory including levels and dimensions
  • The dimensions of social capital including structural, relational, and cognitive
  • The distinction between bonding, bridging and linking social capital
  • The main measurement approaches and their limitations
  • The main criticisms of social capital theory and how to avoid making the same mistakes
  • How to use social capital in your research or project

Course Teachers

  • Principal Social Capital & Organisational Culture Specialist

    Tristan Claridge

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