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What is Social Capital?

Supplementary resources on social capital to complement our guide to social capital.

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Social Capital in Practice

A general guide for the practical application of social capital

Rules, precedents, and procedures

Rules, guidelines, precedents, and procedures, along with their application and enforcement, exert considerable influence on social capital. Rules play a crucial role because, in the absence of decision-making and resource mobilisation guidelines, collective action becomes more challenging and less probable. A diverse range of rules are formulated, overseen, and enforced to establish harmonious working relationships. Rules can manifest as written or unwritten, formal, or traditional. These rules serve as robust indicators of appropriateness, significantly shaping social norms and sanctions. The manner in which rules are endorsed, supervised, and enforced carries implications for solidarity, trust, and the pursuit of shared objectives.

Rules, and other aspects of connectedness, tend to be easier to observe than many other aspects of social capital since they are reinforced by sanctions and by incentives. Despite their somewhat objective nature, rules ultimately depend on cognitive processes such as mutual expectations and other shared understandings for their effectiveness. Therefore, they could be considered a manifestation of shared understandings, but they also powerfully shape the nature of shared understandings. Rules are a strong signal of what is and is not appropriate so have a strong influence on the nature of social action. How rules are sanctioned, monitored, and enforced tends to have implications for solidarity, trust, and shared goals. The nature of rules, and how they are enforced, can carry significant interpreted meaning for actors, such as related to fairness, equity, and efficacy.

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