Social capital is poorly conceptualised, so putting the concept into operation is problematic. Social capital cannnot be measured directly as it exists between people, and within social interactions. Previous attempts to measure the current or past status of social capital have used proxies or indicators of social capital; measuring determinants of social capital or its manifestations rather than social capital directly.
This section deals with the problems and opportunities of measuring social capital and the prospects of building social capital.
Regardless of how detailed the instrument for measuring social capital is, even if it is a 300 question survey, there is still low certainty between the result and reality. Further, if the intent is to find a single number representing the structure of social capital in a particular group this is almost completely pointless.
Another problem is that any measurement activity requires interaction with the social setting, which changes the nature and structure of the social capital. This is a serious problem for measurement, but an opportunity for building social capital. If the individuals emersed in the social setting are involved in identifying the structural elements that are important, then they can positively enhance these aspects of social capital and this also provides the means to monitor progress.
The topic of using measurement initiatives to build social capital appropriately has not yet been thoroughly explored, and is in need of further research.
Citing this article
This article is part of a thesis submitted to the University of Queensland, Australia. You should reference this work as:
Claridge, T., 2004. Social Capital and Natural Resource Management: An important role for social capital? Unpublished Thesis, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.