Methods in Social Capital

(this is a refer link - since the paper referred was a draft that is no longer visible in its original form it cannot become a cite link until an equivalent published resource can be found - see the reports referenced at the end for sources of more cite links that may be more credible and current)

Methods in Social Capital, 2000, is a paper by Leroy White and Oliver Harding of the London Health Observatory, relates the LHO's methods of measuring social capital, social network theory, the relationship of social capital to health and to participatory democracy.

It's table of contents:

What is social capital?
The relationship between social capital and health
Measuring social capital
The effectiveness of interventions aimed at improving social capital
Governance, government and true participatory democracy

(*) Information sources
(*) Datasets available
(*) Contacts for further information
(*) Reports/references

"The idea of social capital, and its influences on health status is becoming increasingly important in our thinking about health.
The following pages describe some of the concepts underlying the idea of social capital.

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What is social capital?

The term capital usually refers to resources, assets or 'stocks', or less tangible attributes such as power or potential.

In everyday usage capital usually refers specifically to the economic value of resources owned by an individual or agency.
It may however be useful to describe other attributes in terms of capital, so capital could be:

* 'Economic'
* 'Educational: intellectual capital'
* 'Social'
* 'Environmental' or even
* 'Aesthetic/cultural'"

"Social capital is generally regarded as intangible, relating largely to interpersonal networks. Robert Putnam, a key originator of the concept of social capital describes it in the following way:

"The central premise of social capital is that social networks have value. Social capital refers to the collective value of all "social networks" and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other." The idea is that "a wide variety of quite specific benefits flow from the trust, reciprocity, information, and cooperation associated with social networks. Social capital creates value for the people who are connected and - at least sometimes - for bystanders as well".

Putnam also describes channels by which social capital manifests itself:

a. Information flows (e.g. learning about jobs, learning about candidates running for office, exchanging ideas at college, etc.) depend on social capital
b. Norms of reciprocity (mutual aid) are dependent on social networks.
· Bonding networks that connect folks who are similar sustain particularized (in-group) reciprocity.
· Bridging networks that connect individuals who are diverse sustain generalized reciprocity.
c. Collective action depends upon social networks (e.g., the role that the black church played in the civic rights movement) although collective action also can foster new networks.
d. Broader identities and solidarity are encouraged by social networks that help translate an "I" mentality into a "we" mentality."

"The relationship between social capital and health

Any consideration of the possible relationships between social capital and health depends on the definitions of these terms used. If health is considered a complete state of physical, psychological and social well-being, then presumably social capital (with an emphasis on social networks) actually contains some of the elements of 'social well-being' within it. Inter-relationships with the other aspects of health may be more tenuous, and evidence of relevant associations would be useful.

Our health is intimately related to behaviour and lifestyle and our environment both physical and socioeconomic. Strong social networks may enable health-related behaviour, and health-seeking behaviour, for example through local knowledge on what to do with a given health problem.

measuring social capital

Measuring social capital is difficult because it is not a well-defined concept. Although single measures such as the density of voluntary organisations have been suggested, there seems to be a consensus that a combination of different indicators is required.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has used forty six largely quantitative indicators for monitoring poverty and social exclusion. These include, for example:

Gap between low and median income
Individuals with below 50% of average income
Intensity of low income (number below 40% of average income)
Long-term recipients of benefits
Pupils gaining no GCSE grade C or above
Permanently excluded from school
Children whose parents divorce
Children in young offenders' institutions

Within the lists are some indicators relating specific health issues:
Low birthweight babies (%)
Accidental deaths
Limiting long-standing illness or disability
Premature death
Limiting long-standing illness or disability
Starting drug treatment
Births to girls conceiving under age 16

That measures relating fairly directly to health such as premature death and long standing limited illness are used as indicators of poverty and social exclusion shows the extent to which the inter-relationships involved are complex. It also seems plausible that good health is positively correlated with social capital.

Other more qualitative measures have been suggested, requiring local surveys.
These include:
Participation in local community
Proactivity in a social context
Feelings of trust and safety
Neighborhood connections
Family and friends connections
Tolerance of diversity
Value of life
Work connections

Overall it seems unlikely that the social capital of a community can be adequately estimated without some original research, and it may be that a combination of qualitative and quantitative information would be best. The World Bank have taken this approach in the development of the Social Capital Assessment Tool (SCAT), which consists of three main components:

* Community profile
* Household survey
* Organisational profile

The effectiveness of interventions aimed at improving social capital.

Interventions which may influence social capital are likely to be aimed at the wider determinants of health. If such interventions increase social capital, this may have a positive effect on health.

Such interventions may include various combinations of:

* Community development
* Regeneration
* Facilitating local democracy and representation

The effectiveness of such interventions may be difficult to measure because they are very wide ranging, and may not be aimed at increasing social capital specifically. Also a lack of a rigid definition for and means of measuring social capital means that the effect of interventions is difficult to ascertain in these terms.

The National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal, which can be seen as aiming to increase social capital (at least in part) uses four key principles:

* Reviving local economies.
* Reviving communities.
* Decent services.
* Leadership and joint working

Within these are 30 Key Ideas derived from examples of best practice. These include for example:

making adult skills a priority in deprived neighbourhoods

improving IT in deprived neighbourhoods

helping people from deprived areas into jobs

making sure people know work pays

keeping money in the neighbourhood

tackling anti-social behaviour

introducing neighbourhood wardens

improving housing lettings policies

Governance, government and true participatory democracy

The idea of social capital implies an emergence of structures and rules, by which community networks function, maintain themselves and grow. A system of representation, communication and democratic decision-making has emerged, and this could be termed governance. It may be useful to consider how this local governance fits in with more formal systems already in place, namely local and national government.

Reforms in local government, the development of community governance, and increasing social capital all go hand in hand. The white paper Modern Local Government begins to consider how changing structures and procedures in local government can make it closer to the community.

Developing social capital through changes in local government. Examples from the White paper

New political structures · New models of political management for councils separating the executive role from the backbench role
· Clear roles for all councillors.
Improving local democracy · More frequent local elections
· Power to hold local referendums
· Guidance on maximising registration and turnout
· Ways of making it easier to vote
Improving local financial accountability · Local people will control the spending and taxation decisions of their councils
· Aggregate grant provision
New ethical framework · Code of Conducts for councillors and council employees
· Standards Committees
· An independent Standards Board
Improving local services through best value · Duty to secure best value in the provision of services
· New national performance indicators for efficiency, cost and quality
· Fundamental performance reviews
· Annual performance plans
· New audit and inspection arrangements
Promoting the well-being of communities · Councils' powers to work in partnership to tackle cross cutting issues and promote social inclusion will be strengthened.
· New legal framework to enable successful councils to do more for their communities and to enable new approaches to public service to be tested through pilots.
Capital finance · Extra resources for capital investment in the basic infrastructure of public services.
· A single capital "pot" so that councils can use resources more flexibly and plan for the long term.
Business rates · Councils and local businesses will need to build partnerships to involve business in the council's local tax and spending decisions
· Business would not be able to block the setting of a local rate supplement"


* A useful summary of social capital at the 'Traveller's Guide to the New NHS' NHS Executive Trent:
* Social Capital and its Relevance to Health and Family Policy. Stephen Leeder Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia. Oct 1998
* The World Bank's link page to external partners, researchers, institutions, governments and others interested in understanding and applying social capital for sustainable social and economic development.
* World Bank Social Capital Assessment Tool
* Measuring Social Capital in Five Communities in New South Wales; Overview of a Study. Paul Bullen & Jenny Onyx, with Neighbourhood and Community Centres March 1998
* An Exploration of Social Capital, Giving and Volunteering at the United States County Level WORKING PAPER, Joshua Galper; The Urban Institute, Washington DC, USA
* Summary of 'Neighbourhood images in East London Social capital and social networks on two East London estates' by Vicki Cattell and Mel Evans, Joseph Rowntree Foundation 1999
* Summary of 'Monitoring poverty and social exclusion: Labour's inheritance', Catherine Howarth, Peter Kenway, Guy Palmer and Cathy Street; Joseph Rowntree Foundation 1998"