Social capital builds resilience by enabling individuals and communities to support each other in times of need.
What is Social Capital?
Social capital contributes to women’s empowerment, promotes behavior change and transforms social norms — all of which strengthen resilience capacities. Self-help groups or socioeconomic networks supporting marketing facilitation can strengthen bonding and bridge social capital. Social capital as a source of resilience is highly context specific.
An individual’s social capital consists of the benefits they gain from their social networks, connections and groups. More than just human relationships, social capital refers to and consists of a range of social factors, including social norms, trust, social identity, group belonging and more. Determinants of social capital include:
- Family and kinship connections
- Flat versus hierarchical social structures
- Economic inequalities
- Political society and related policies
Different communities have varying existing and potential forms of social capital. Without robust social capital, one risks being excluded from beneficial social interactions, processes and institutions, which could hamper their resilience. However, some groups, such as religious or ethnic minorities, may be excluded from community networks. On both an individual and collective level, social capital is critical to advancing adaptation and innovation, bolstering resilience in the face of shocks and stressors.
Types of Social Capital
In certain contexts, social capital allows people to lean on each other during times of need. This is often achieved through both formal and informal support networks. Social scientists have identified three types of social capital that have been used by USAID and its partner organizations to guide interventions aimed at increasing individual and collective resilience.
- Bonding social capital
- Bonding social capital exists within a group or community. It is characterized by high levels of demographic, attitude and resource similarities. Bonding social capital often exists between family members, friends and neighbors.
- Bridging social capital
- Bridging social capital exists between groups or communities that may be otherwise divided along the lines of race, class, religion or the like. Bridging social capital refers to the relationships and associations that “bridge” the divides between groups and communities.
- Linking social capital
- Linking social capital is often viewed as an extension of bridging social capital. It describes the norms of respect and trust that guide the relationships between individuals interacting across explicit lines of institutional power, often vertical. Examples of linking social capital include the interactions between community-based organizations and national governments.
Watch this video to learn more about the three types of social capital.
USAID's Investments in Social Capital
USAID and its partner organizations fund significant investments in social capital, spanning across household resilience, improved governance and youth empowerment. Read examples of USAID’s social capital work below.
Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced Program
The Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) Program aimed to address the root causes of persistent vulnerability through joint analysis and planning between USAID, its partners and local partners across the Sahel region. In particular, the RISE Program examined the role of household resilience capacities in strengthening resilience to shocks and stressors. Between 2018 and 2019, the final year of the program, it was found that both bonding and bridging social capital helped strengthen household resilience to shocks.
Building Alliances for Local Advancement, Development and Investment Activity
The Building Alliances for Local Advancement, Development and Investment (BALADI) Activity, implemented in part by Caritas Lebanon, aimed to improve the governance of municipalities and public service delivery. It also aimed to establish sustainable, local social capital through enhanced participatory decentralized governance. The program design sought broad governance and social capital outcomes, including citizens’ perceptions of local government, participatory decentralized governance, improved accountability, civic engagement that improves local democratic processes and effective citizen advocacy.
Building the Potential of Youth Activity
The Building the Potential of Youth Activity (POTENTIAL) aimed to provide Ethiopian youth with services to help them achieve increased income and gain the skills, knowledge and social capital required to achieve economic self-sufficiency. The activity responded to unemployed and underemployed youth’s capacity needs, leveraged existing youth development activities and improved the quality and accountability of local training and business service providers by ensuring existing entities worked in concert. In particular, the activity included training components that built the social capital, working culture and motivation of youth. It also encouraged the participation of community members, community leaders, parents and the local-level administration to collaborate, learn and adapt the interventions.
More About Social Capital
Sharing to Survive: Investigating the Role of Social Networks During Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis
27 Oct 2022 - Mercy Corps , The REAL Award
After more than seven years of conflict, over 20 million Yemenis — 66% of the population — are in need of assistance.
ResilienceLinks Webinar | Connecting through Crises: Opportunities and Challenges in Strengthening Informal Support Networks
20 Oct 2022, GMT -4 - ResilienceLinks, in partnership with USAID's Center for Resilience and Mercy Corps
How can donors, policymakers and practitioners help strengthen informal support networks as part of their efforts to build resilience in vulnerable communities?
Survivor- and Community-Led Crisis Response (Sclr): Practical Experience and Learning
22 Sep 2022 - Humanitarian Practice Network
Sclr enables aid actors to connect with, support and strengthen crisis responses identified, designed, implemented and monitored by local groups.
Networks for Resilience: The Role of Social Capital
22 Sep 2022 - International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Local social capital systems can play a positive role in individual, household and community resilience, allowing people to better cope, adapt and transform.