Thursday, October 30, 2008

Understanding and Creating Bridging Social Capital



Yesterday I attended a public policy forum hosted by The Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago. The title was "Is Great Teaching Enough? The impact of school-community connections on the achievement gap."

Within the information presented was a discussion of social capital, or the connections between people within a neighborhood (bonding capital) and that connect people in the neighborhood with others beyond (bridging social capital).

I created the graphic above several months ago to illustrate how the Tutor/Mentor Connection is creating "bonding capital" by connecting people who are involved with inner city youth with each other and with a vast network of knowledge, with a goal that we create more volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs that connect kids in poverty with a network of adult resources outside of poverty.

I have written about this many times in the past and often say that the connections we make between a youth and an adult, and a tutor/mentor program, are the most important values of having these programs. With so much emphasis on test scores in the funding community, it's great to hear researchers say that having this social capital may be the best strategy to help chronically poor schools, serving high concentrations of poor and African American students, succeed in school. I would add "and succeed in jobs and careers".

So I went back to my computer and looked up some web sites which help me and others understand social capital, and the difference between bridging and bonding types of social capital.

On one site, titled Social Capital: Bonds that Connect, the sub head was "Up against low income, poor education, few material assets, no insurance, and usurious credit, social networks may be the most important resource of the poor"

I agree. I hope that you'll spend some time browsing this article, and others that I've posted in the Links Library so that you can incorporate your understanding of these ideas into operations of a volunteer based tutor/mentor programs, or into the ways a company, foundation, faith group, college or hospital might support the growth of these programs in specific high poverty areas of big cities like Chicago.

As you see the value of these ideas, hopefully you'll attend the May and November Tutor/Mentor Conference, and build your own network, while we expand ours because of your participation. The next conference is November 21 at the Chicago Field Museum.

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