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Social Capital


Social capital refers to connections, networks, or relationships among people and the value that arises from them. It can be accessed or mobilized to help individuals succeed in life. It produces information, emotional or financial support, and/or other resources. Examples of ways to build social capital include being part of faith-based networks, mentoring, having peer support, and positive parenting. Social capital gives people information, emotional and financial support, and other resources. It also allows people to develop trust as they connect with other people. This increased level of trust makes it easier for people to work together to achieve shared goals.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the United States Department of Health and Human Services, RTI International, and the ncIMPACT Initiative at the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill, partnered together on the project “Strengthening Services through Social Capital.”

The ncIMPACT Initiative, along with our partners, set out to answer the following question:

How do organizations, including faith-based, non-profit, and public agencies, in low-income communities currently build and leverage social capital to reduce poverty, increase employment, and improve child and family well-being?

The project used interviews, surveys, and focus groups with a national panel of practitioner and academic experts, a comprehensive national scan of programs using social capital building methods, and site visits to and case studies of recognized successful programs across the country, to better understand how human services organizations help participants build and leverage social capital to improve economic opportunity. See below for excerpts from a selection of the resulting research products prepared by ncIMPACT staff, often in collaboration with other personnel from the School of Government, UNC, and other organizations.