Social Capital

Social capital builds resilience by enabling individuals and communities to support each other in times of need.

village savings group meets

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. Bonding social capital entails the horizontal links between family members, close friends, and neighbors. Bridging social capital connects communities and groups. And linking social capital connects social networks with some form of authority. Social capital helps protect against, mitigate, and manage shocks or stresses.


Social capital contributes to women’s empowerment, promotes behavior change, and transforms social norms — all of which strengthens resilience capacities. Self-help groups or socioeconomic networks supporting marketing facilitation can strengthen bonding and bridging social capital. Social capital as a source of resilience is highly context specific. Different communities have varying existing and potential forms of social capital. Social capital is an important factor in communities’ ability to mitigate and recover from shocks. However, some groups, such as religious or ethnic minorities, may be excluded from community networks.


A multi-country study in Uganda, Nepal, and the Philippines suggests bonding capital contributes to resilience. Evidence on the role of bridging social capital in making households more resilient is weaker. The results across groups, context, and type of disaster or shock are highly variable. Evidence on linking social capital and resilience is mixed.

Evaluations of USAID resilience projects in East and West Africa demonstrate social capital’s role in building resilience. Bonding and bridging social capital were significantly associated with households’ ability to maintain and increase food security during droughts. Linking capital was positively associated with households’ ability to maintain food security during shocks. However, this was only true in certain countries.

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