Tuesday, June 17, 2014
BRIEF: Local sources of resilience: Working with social capital
As part of the IFPRI 2020 Resilience Conference, IFPRI authors Quinn Bernier and Ruth Meinzen-Dick contributed a brief on “Local sources of resilience: Working with social capital”.
People have always faced shocks and have devised a variety of institutional responses to cope with, recover from, and prevent future impacts. Central to these shocks and this coping capacity, but often underexplored, is the role of social capital. Social capital includes “features of social organization, such as networks, norms, and social trust, that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit” and can serve as an asset for communities, enabling them to engage in and benefit from collective action and cooperation. While social capital takes many forms, of particular interest here are local-level organizations and less formal social networks.
Having long played a role in individual, household, and community risk-smoothing and risk-sharing practices, social capital has also been identified as a vital component of adaptive capacity as well as a key factor contributing to post-disaster recovery. Practitioners often assume that the poor, who lack other assets, can develop, acquire, and utilize social capital instead; however, as many studies have illustrated, the poor face significant challenges in building and using this resource. Moreover, social capital by itself may not be sufficient to encourage proactive adaptive behaviors and changes; external interventions may be needed to strengthen indigenous associations and support for resilience. However, clearly understanding local-level social capital is necessary for such interventions to effectively engage with, and not erode, effective local responses. This brief explores how local forms of social capital can contribute to resilience and how policy interventions can build up, support, and deepen these connections.