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What does it mean to build social capital?

To build social capital means to improve social structures and social attitudes, values and behaviours. Building social capital means different things at different levels. At the individual level building social capital involves the actions and intentions of the individual. At the societal level building social capital relates to social structure and organisation which tends to change slowly over time.

Social capital relates to the ways in which humans interact and work together so building social capital means improving the way humans interact, collaborate, and cooperate. Social capital has role-based or rule-based (structural) and mental or attitudinal (cognitive) aspects. Building social capital can focus on either or both aspects.

Structural and cognitive forms of social capital can be built up over time, though they cannot be “seeded” as simply and directly as a forest can be planted. At community level the physical layout of cities and neighbourhoods affect creation and maintenance of social capital by encouraging or discouraging social interaction of residents.

In organisations building social capital involves promoting values and norms that facilitate the creation of social capital, as well as the means and motivation for members to interact with each other.

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