The United Nations is currently developing comprehensive assessments of the impact of social capital in communities and purports that volunteerism is the heart of social capital. As such, it is significant for volunteers and those creating volunteer opportunities to be mindful of the approaches and opportunities being created. To create bridging social capital requires a diversity sometimes not seen in volunteer opportunities as the very nature of an opportunity draws like minded people from similar backgrounds and resources. For instance, neighborhood or playground clean-ups draws individuals from the neighborhood together and, of course, generates social capital, however does not necessarily expand the cultural, professional, or geographic boundaries of the participants.
While social capital remains a somewhat diffuse concept for social entrepreneurs and innovators, alike. Change agents seeking community impact can improve outcomes through consideration of social capital in whatever interventions they attempt. Bridging social capital refers to groups of individuals of different skills, resources, and other attributes that come together and the interaction is mutually beneficial. Simply put, bridging social capital connects diverse groups and consequently enriches both.
Another accessible opportunity that provides bridging social capital in an easily replicable model is the Great American Clean-Up. Annually, 4 million volunteers across the United States sign-up to participate in this day of service. A result is a broad geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic array of community members who interact over the course of a day. The opportunity is present for these diverse individuals and organizations to develop the connections necessary for a social capital network. These networks consequently strengthen a broad range of community ties and ideally lead to greater community action and mutual support. To become involved in this event as an individual or organization visit their affiliate locator to sign-up and acquire further details.
In another instance, the impact and importance of bridging social capital can also be seen in the reintegration of schools where children of deficient abilities are no longer segregated from other school children. This model of bridging interactions of diverse social skills is shown to improve development of all the children. Likewise, it increases the social skills of socially impaired students as well as the empathy of the other school children. The mental health systems of the State’s have also enacted similar practices which produces improved outcomes as the diversity of social interaction spurs and supports mental health.
To implement bridging social capital can be as simple as advertising in various locales to draw a wide socioeconomic variety or as complex as organizing a multicultural fair celebrating the diverse foods, music, and wares of your surrounding region. As a volunteer organizer in what ways can you implement social capital in your opportunities? If seeking to volunteer, All For Good and Serve.gov provide immense opportunities for local involvement as well as appending opportunities you create. To seek diverse opportunities get involved with organizations and events that may not typically interest you and you may find broadened horizons as well as what your skills, attributes, and perspective can add to any array of communities.