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social capital

How NOT to cultivate your social network

We often talk about how to cultivate your network--what about how not to cultivate your network?  What things negatively impact your social capital?  Some obvious ones would be not returning calls, not following through on something you said you would do.  Continuously being on the receiving side of a relationship would be another.

I'm also thinking of a few situations lately that bring this question to mind...making referrals, and then seeing my contact handle the situation in a way that made me feel uncomfortable that I had made that referral.  The take-away on this is that when someone makes an introduction for me, I need to keep in mind that the person is extending him or herself by making that connection.  I need to be aware that how I proceed with that contact is going to impact my relationship with the introducer.  Being insensitive to this dynamic is another way not to cultivate your network.

These are just a few additional ideas that come to mind--I would welcome thoughts from others on how not to cultivate your network!  Sometimes negative examples can be valuable for our learning.

Leveraging Social Networks for Social Impact

Last week I facilitated a discussion on "Leveraging Social Networks for Social Impact" as part of the Boston Center for Community & Justice (BCCJ) Brown Bag Lunch Series.  The goals were to 1) present some general concepts about social networks & social capital; 2) share how SCI applies these concepts, especially how we train on leveraging social networks for social impact; and 3) discuss the implications of these ideas for the BCCJ network.

I promised to share my presentation and some of the key handouts with the group, and thought I'd post here to make them accessble to others interested in the subject matter.  If you only see this post, you will of course miss the interesting conversation we had, but can at least glean some of the key concepts from the presentation.  I've also uploaded one of the case studies we use to train on the subject, and our outreach planning tool.  Visit this overview page for more background on our work to "Develop Social Capitalists" through trainings and resources like these. Read more

'09 Goal Met, Thanks to Our Friends, and Their Friends...

First, the simple good news flash--we reached our year-end fundraising goal!  We wrote here on 12/30 that we still needed $1365 to reach our calendar year-end fundraising goal, and we surpassed that total by mid-morning on New Year's Eve.  Thanks to all who made a contribution to help us reach that goal!  As noted in the earlier post, this means that we will be able to maintain our current budget & program levels as we start the new year rather than needing to implement additional budget cuts.  We'll be able to keep having the kind of impact we've had over the past year.   Read more

Seven Values for the Social Capitalist

We're working hard this summer on our Social Capitalist Curriculum.  This curriculum will codify our 7 years of experience in a resource that will allow us to spread our impact by training people to be effective Social Capitalists; that is, leaders who possess a unique set of skills and attitudes that enable them to collaborate effectively, make connections, bridge differences, and nurture social networks to make a difference.  Early in the process, we identified 9 Social Capitalist Competencies, described in this document.  

In working on the training for the first competency, "Wear Social Capitalist Lenses", it became clear that we needed to define the values and principles that underly a Social Capitalist perspective.  Here's my initial working list of Social Capitalist Values, concepts that one most embrace and keep coming back to in order to effectively strengthen our social fabric.   I'd love to hear your feedback or additions to the list.  Read more

10 Ways (and Counting!) to Build Social Capital

As we work on our Social Capitalist Curriculum, we're thinking a lot about practical ways to teach people how to build social capital.  I've begun "tweeting" these ideas and now that we're up to 10, wanted to pull together into a blog post.  I'll update every time we've got another batch of 10 or so, and would welcome your contributions to the list.  You can add those by commenting here (approval needed) or by tweeting them with the hashtag #socialcaptips.  The idea of such a list isn't unique, in fact, the Saguaro Seminar has a great list of "150 Things You Can Do to Build Social Capital".  We seek to add to the practical social capital building tips by creating one based on our experience and sharing it here and via Twitter.

1: Fix a meal for new parents in your neighborhood.

2: Share your swimming pool with neighbors.

3: Recommend local businesses that provide good service to your friends and family. Read more

A Social Capitalist Take on the Gates/Crowley Incident

We talk a lot here at SCI about the value of knowing our neighbors. To suggest why crime rates are lower in neighborhoods where people know each other, I've often used the hypothetical example of seeing someone climb into the window in a home across the street--if we know our neighbors, we know whether to call the police or go help our neighbor get into his home. Now, in the incident with Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley (no known relation!) we have an unfortunate example of what can happen when we don't know our neighbors.

With good reason, race has been the dominant theme in the dialog that has followed last week's incident, but I'd like to explore the neighborhood angle along with the racial dimensions. Let me start with the obvious point that this incident could have simply avoided had the person who called the police had known Professor Gates was a neighbor. We aren't talking about being over for regularly for butter or bagels here, but even having met a few times and exchanged hellos walking in the neighborhood would have done the trick. Simple, right? Hold on...
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In Defense of Food--and Community

Volunteers at a local community farm

My interest in cooking (and eating) led me to read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, yet I was struck by how some of the societal factors that require food to be defended also contribute to the declining social capital we address here at SCI.

Pollan's basic plot, picking up where he left off in The Omnivore's Dilemma, argues that many of the poor health outcomes we see in the U.S. today result from the Western diet with its reliance on processed food, meat and dairy produced in disconcerting ways, and a limited range of grains. He suggests the link between the "food industrial complex" and nutritionists' quest for a single food factor, be it fat or carbs, that explains health also drives a frequent rollout of new fad diets and food products that at best haven't made us any better off.
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Globe Article Suggests Social Media Strengthening Friendships

Earlier this decade, Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone indicted the television as one of the primary culprits for declining social capital. Then in 2006 the study, "Social Isolation in America" indicated that the number of Americans who are socially isolated, with zero or just one close confidante, roughly doubled over a 20 year period to 43%. This study's authors also implicated technology as one of the causes for the diminishing number of close friends Americans have today. Both works raised interesting questions about how Internet based technologies would impact social capital and friendships.
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Town Sees Value of Local Bakery

I found this recent story from the Boston Globe to be an interesting example of how people value locally owned businesses, both for the product they provide as well as the space they provide to connect with their fellow community members.  The town of Colebrook, NH, came together to keep open this bakery, Le Rendez Vous, when its owner couldn't get his Visa renewed initially.  The town had suffered their share of recent economic hardships, with plant closings and the like, but decided to make a stand on behalf of the bakery.   Read more

Earth Day Reflections on Social Capital

The general concept of social capital can apply to far flung networks. Four years of living together at college certainly built up social capital among my seven college roommates, despite being scattered across the country today. To a lesser degree, some social capital resides with my hundreds of "friends" on social networking sites like Facebook.Earth Day served as a fitting reminder for me that at Social Capital Inc. our concept of social capital is inextricably linked to the importance of place.

My early morning Earth Day walk, helping me connect to nature and place, reminded me of how our work is in many ways staking a claim that place still matters in this digital age. People and place are at the heart of SCI's efforts; we are about nurturing the relationships of people in a particular. Facebook friends (unless they are from Woburn!) can't help take care of the pond I walked this morning or the schools where our son will be educated. Read more

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