Monday, 29 October 2007

Social capital in neighbourhoods: two recent reports CASE, the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, recently published a short report by Anne Power and Helen Willmot on Social capital within the neighbourhood. It's based on seven rounds of interviews with the main carer (or most present parent) in families with children, in two case study areas: a large council estate, and an inner city mixed-tenure area. The material comes from CASE's eight year longitudinal study tracking 200 families in four representative low-income areas. The researchers look at bonding capital, in terms of family and friendship networks; and bridging capital, in which they include the role of neighbours (something continues to bother me about the equation of weak neighbourly relations with 'bridging' capital...): In Kirkside East 70% of the respondents, and in The Valley 68%, explained that there are one or more people with whom they actually exchange favours. Furthermore, approximately a fifth of the respondents in both of the neighbourhoods (18% in Kirkside East and 20% in The Valley) explained that there are more than four such people in their lives. Favours exchanged encompassed immediate, momentary ones and more long-term, longstanding arrangements, including the giving of time as well as other resources. The report goes on to note that: A dominant theme in the respondents’ narratives on friends and family was the importance not so much of the actual support received from them, as knowing it is there to draw on when ever it is needed - although this is not extended to neighbours. The researchers conclude by echoing calls for policy makers 'to recognise, and then not damage or destroy, existing social capital.' Around the same time, a report by Marilyn Taylor from an action learning set on Making social capital count was published as part of the national evaluation of neighbourhood management pathfinders. The report is based on conversations (aha) among residents and agency representatives in Manton, north Nottinghamshire, exploring how a focus on social capital could contribute to change in their area. The content of the pdf is protected (there may be some reason for that, which I'm unable to grasp) which hardly encourages me to offer the findings. But I do note the remark: 'The beauty of this approach is that it is simple - even obvious.' Indeed.

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