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Back to ideas | Back to social capital



Social Capital:
Family Support Services and
Neighbourhood and Community Centres in NSW

 

Paul Bullen with
Jenny Onyx
Neighbourhood and Community Centres in NSW and
Family Support Services in NSW

Available for on-line purchase and download A$15

This paper has been prepared for Family Support Services and Neighbourhood and Community Centres in New South Wales, Australia, to encourage discussion and reflection on service delivery and community development. The paper uses data from Family Support Services' and Neighbourhood and Community Centres' censuses and other literature and studies. It was originally published in 1999. It has been revised and expanded in 2005 and is now available in a PDF version for purchase and download.

The 2005 edition has been expanded to include question by question data for the 31 social capital questions for fourteen communities and groups included in the three studies so that it is possible for community organisations and services to use the data for comparative purposes. The 2005 edition also includes additional discussion of community development and an update to further reading.

Contents

1. Introduction
2. What is social capital?
3. Measuring social capital in NSW
4. What we found
5. Charts: Comparing communities and groups
6. Discussion: Comparing communities and groups
7. Community development and social capital
8. Building social capital while providing services
9. Conclusion

Attachments
1. Neighbourhood and Community Centres
2. Family support services
3. The Questions
4. Improving, using and misusing the social capital measure
5. Further reading
6. Question by question data
7. Social capital questionnaire

1. Introduction

Over the last five to seven years social capital has started to get on the public agenda.

Many people are not familiar with the term social capital. In everyday language we speak about the social fabric rather than social capital.
Social capital is the term being used in the public discussion because:

  • it puts the social fabric on a par with other forms of capital such as financial capital, physical capital and human capital.
  • social capital has some characteristics of other forms of capital, for example, it is a resource one can build up and then draw on later.

Some of the reasons why social capital is being publicly discussed are:

  • people in the community can see economic growth and economic well-being are not necessarily building the community fabric and they are looking for alternatives to the current dominant economic ideology
  • there is increasing evidence social capital is an essential ingredient in:
    civil society
    economic development
    the health of people in communities
    community development.

Neighbourhood and Community Centres and Family support services are involved in the provision of services and community development. Some key challenges for them in this public debate are to:

  • understand what social capital is
  • be aware of relevant studies and research
  • explore the implications for their services particularly for
    service delivery and community development.

This paper is intended to encourage discussion of these issues. That paper is based on three studies that attempt to measure social capital in NSW and are particularly relevant to Family support services and Neighbourhood and Community Centres in NSW. They are:

1. Measuring Social Capital in Five Communities in NSW (referred to as the Five Communities Study in the remainder of this paper).
2. Neighbourhood and Community Centres in NSW - 1997 and 1998 Censuses of services.
3. Family support services in NSW - 1998 Census of services and clients.

The 2005 edition has been expanded to include question by question data for all communities and groups included in the three studies so that it is possible for community organisations and services to use the data for comparative purposes. The 2005 edition also includes additional discussion of community development and an update to further reading.