Sunday, December 4

Social Capital

When we measure economic development we tend to use crude economic data and compare per capita income in determining our financial health and prosperity. Non monetary aspects such as the value of voluntary work and our general community wellbeing are ignored. Our current crude monetary measurement makes no allowance for replacement and reinstatement of consumed finite resources. Its' an aggregation of honest and corrupt activities indistinguishable between those upholding human rights and those involved in abuses.

What's the solution? Introduce the term 'Social Capital'. By that I refer to the value of a community network of social interaction, the civic responsibility and trust that exists within communities, an expression of values and whether or not they are being upheld.
You might say this as a somewhat vague notion but I think it needs urgent debate, definition and measurement to determine our current level of wellbeing within communities of people.

I suspect with the current "War on Terror" our community standards overall and values are decreasing at an alarming rate in many countries, but the politicians have no fears, as our measurement is anecdotal, a confusion of sorts, characterized by a vague sense of unease and some irate bloggers. Such unease often surfaces long after the events that preceded it were suitably quarantined away from the public eye.

If you would like to understand better what's meant by social capital and its progress a good source is social commentator Author Robert D Putman. Click here.

In Australia the Commonwealth Bureau of Statistics has 'Social Capital' as 'Work in Process'. Click here to visit their site.

I hope one day we will be measuring 'Social Capital' and ensuring that it is showing an improved trend just like unemployment, compared around the world as a matter of course. We need international standard for social capital and I hope one day it's included as part of Foreign Policy.

I am not saying its a panacea for all ills, rather an improvement on the current fatally flawed system of economic measurement.

10 comments:

Gary said...

Yes, and what gets measured and monitored is often what gets addressed. Looking at development in a way that includes social and environmental indicators is long overdue (from governments and researchers, not just Oxfam).

Iceland is aiming a ending its oil dependency by 2020 and is well on its way, with its vast use of geothermal energy and by becoming the hydrogen cell 'capital' of the world. Within a few years, every bus in the country will run on Ballard hydrogen fuel cells. Does any of this get measured in the Icelandic economic indicators... not likely.

VB said...

Yes I agree, we need to discuss and define this. I also think we need the same think for our environmental well being. I believe there is a big environmental crunch coming at some time. I don't know when but I know it is coming. There will be lots of implications of this but one is things will be built to last longer rather than being built to be thrown out after a couple of years.

madcapmum said...

I'd like to add small home gardens to that calculation!

Granny said...

I'm lurking and learning.

We're involved in an environment fight here (Merced, CA) at the moment and I may describe it at some point. People never learn do they.

Lindsay Lobe said...

Thanks for you comments.
gary -a good example of sustainability in iceland with no credit in our currently flawed system for essential iniatives like the one you mentioned.

VB -that crunch is already her I think !!

Granny
I have heard that CA is very enviromenatlly minded ?

Madcapmum
I agree -tasts better too!!

bohemiantroubadour said...

Openly gay stuff should be advanced.

Granny said...

Yes and no on environment. Our small city is growing much faster than our planning.

We are fighting a NASCAR type racetrack on one end of town and a new Walmart distribution site on the other.

Our north/south "freeway" is 2 lanes each way and not all is controlled access. It's dangerous already. Our surface roads are narrow and in disrepair.

The racetrack and Walmart will back traffic up in both directions in 5 or 6 valley towns to say nothing of what it does to CA Hwy 99.

The Environment Impact Report is frightening, the racetrack project has been shrouded in secrecy until it's almost to late to fight.

Too long a comment already but you get the idea. Individual Californians are environmentally minded - corporations are corporations everywhere. I'll keep you posted if you're interested.

Granny said...

Yes and no on environment. Our small city is growing much faster than our planning.

We are fighting a NASCAR type racetrack on one end of town and a new Walmart distribution site on the other.

Our north/south "freeway" is 2 lanes each way and not all is controlled access. It's dangerous already. Our surface roads are narrow and in disrepair.

The racetrack and Walmart will back traffic up in both directions in 5 or 6 valley towns to say nothing of what it does to CA Hwy 99.

The Environment Impact Report is frightening, the racetrack project has been shrouded in secrecy until it's almost to late to fight.

Too long a comment already but you get the idea. Individual Californians are environmentally minded - corporations are corporations everywhere. I'll keep you posted if you're interested.

DA said...

Thank you for this post Lindsay.

To my believe social capital and trust are the cornerstones of our society whether in business or family life.

Happy Winter Solstice (2005)

Lindsay Lobe said...

Thanks DA- very encoraging -Do you think the statement in your Annual Report has substance !!

It's good business if it does, but often companies only pay lip service with warm and fuzzy words, lacking in substance.