PEOPLE PLAY VITAL ROLE IN SOCIAL CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT
The development of social capital at neighbourhood level relies on people, with funding and systems playing little part says a report from Communities and Local Government. It is because of this dependence on individuals that the process is volatile and unstable.
Social capital gives people access to resources and information, but it is not a magic wand that can cure all problems at neighbourhood level.
The Neighbourhood Management Pathfinder Programme was launched in 2001 to test the model of neighbourhood management. Researchers found that a good start had been made in developing social capital in the pilot Pathfinder areas. The focus on children and young people at all levels in community building initiatives was particularly impressive. Opportunities were created for people from different backgrounds and communities to come together and work towards common goals. This included work with schools and faith communities to increase cross-cultural understanding and involving young people and adults in debates about perceptions of anti-social behaviour. Residents were given more of a sense of local identity through festivals, community centres and through reclaiming local public spaces.
The report highlights concerns that stocks of social capital and capacity may depend too much on individuals. The skills required to maximize the value of community engagement and handle potential conflicts were not felt to be spread throughout agencies. Staff turnover could also lead to the trust that has been built being lost.
Factors which support the development of social capital include physical and social improvements that help to build trust and confidence amongst residents by making the area look and feel safer. There is also value in community hubs such as neighbourhood offices, community centres, radio stations and local parks in giving the neighbourhood an identity that people can relate to and opportunities for people to come together.
Other factors include the resource that faith communities can offer if they work together. Schools can also provide a direct route into the community and they have a potential role in encouraging shared values and the development of social capital.