By Patricia Rattray

When we build social capital, we find purpose, modelling, camaraderie, and the hidden safety net that Timothy Carney writes about in Alienated America. These are the less obvious benefits of community. They “are crucial, and their loss is costly” (Carney 60). Their impact on our quality of life, health and economy cannot be overstated.

Social Capital is not built merely by networking, volunteering or being friendly or nice. It is both an internal and external resource that requires a sustained series of community interactions that expand self-awareness, self-acceptance, confidence, the ability to trust and perceived capabilities. Networking has its purposes, and it can be meaningful. It does not have the same requirements our outcomes as social capital building and it generally fails to build the high levels of trust that are hallmarks of social capital. The following table contrasts social capital building with networking. Think about your personal and professional life and try to identify if your behaviors align with a networking mindset or a social capital building mindset.

Networking Social Capital Building
Does not require high levels of personal trust Requires and fosters high levels of personal trust
Controlled static groups Intersecting changing groups
Front loaded, constant Interactions Sustained smaller interactions
Role based Experience and skill based
Performance Mindset Growth Mindset
Plays out through exchanging established resources Plays out through developing, sharing, empowering, refining, and expanding resources
Like Exchanges Unlike Exchanges
Cross Industry (other traits are generally similar) Cross Industry, Sector, Class, Culture, Age, Gender
Roles are static Shifting Mentor/Mentee Roles
Minimal risk-taking and trying new things Taking calculated risks and trying new things are embraced
Can be developed individually Highly collaborative