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Social Capital and Our Community

This publication provides basic information about our U of MN Extension social capital model and can inform individuals and communities about how social capital can be a benefit to their community.

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What is social capital?

"It's not what you know, it's who you know." This common saying describes some of what is known about social capital. The saying implies what we commonly observe—that getting membership to exclusive clubs requires inside contacts; that close competitions for jobs and contracts are often won by those with friends in high places.
But “who you know? makes a difference in other ways, too. When you fall on hard times, it is friends and family who create a safety net. Your happiest and most rewarding hours may be spent talking with neighbors, sharing meals with friends, being at religious gatherings, or volunteering for community projects. (Woolcock & Narayan 2000) That’s what social capital is all about.

A simple way to start to think about social capital is to consider the networks of people in your life and ask yourself:
«Who do I know?
«What am I willing to do for them?
«What are others willing to do for me?

The ability to create and use networks is important for personal success -- on-the job, in professional organizations, in volunteer work. Communities also can create and use networks to improve the quality of life in their town. Networks help us get information, ideas, influence, and resources so that we can accomplish goals.