Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Understanding impact of social capital on future outcomes

I saw the post below in my Twitter feed today:



It's a long article, but I decided to read it. Toward the end found this paragraph:

"His data also suggest that who you know growing up can have lasting effects. A paper on patents he co-authored found that young women were more likely to become inventors if they’d moved as children to places where many female inventors lived. (The number of male inventors had little effect.) Even which fields inventors worked in was heavily influenced by what was being invented around them as children. Those who grew up in the Bay Area had some of the highest rates of patenting in computers and related fields, while those who spent their childhood in Minneapolis, home of the Mayo Clinic, tended to invent drugs and medical devices."

I've been describing mentor-rich youth programs as a form of social capital for a long time and use this Total Quality Mentoring graphic to visualize how an organized program might help connect a young person to a wide range of influences over multiple years in a program.

View Total Quality Mentoring essay
The most important idea to take away from this is that youth don't form these bonds without help; and youth living in high poverty areas with strong influences by others living in poverty, don't have natural connections to other influences which are available to youth in more affluent areas. Some form of intermediary needs to help these connections form. Volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs serve that intermediary role in many places. There are not enough of such programs and funding for long-term operations is almost non-existent.

I learned about the Opportunity Index last year and wrote about it in this article.  I've a wish list that I'd love to present to researchers like Raj Chetty

a) Look at 990 reports and identify all tutor/mentor programs in the country; then survey them to see which include a social capital vision in their strategies and practices. What percent of existing programs include this? Plot locations on maps to show where they are and what age groups they serve, and where more programs are needed, which is what I've tried to do since 1994 (dormant since 2013).

b) Develop a tool that programs can use to measure the social capital of youth and volunteers when they enter an organized tutor/mentor program; and to show how that changes for each as they participate for multiple years. Find a way to aggregate and share that data.  Make sure the collection is long term.

c) Build a "data story telling" program into your research practices. Teach more people to dig into your reports and tell stories that share the information and draw needed resources to organizations that show strategies for expanding social capital.  This is Step 2 in Four Part Strategy that I've followed since 1993.

d) Teach people involved in youth programs to tell "how" they do what they do; "what works" and "what challenges they face" on their web sites and blogs, then teach them to spend time reading and learning from each other on a regular basis. Teach donors to seek out such programs and provide on-going, flexible, non-restricted operating funds.

d) Encourage your students and followers to read articles on my blogs and look at how interns have communicated these ideas; 

e) Invite me into your conversations and brainstorming.

Here's a page on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site where I point to many social network analysis and social capital articles.

Read some of the articles I've written about Robert D. Putnam's work on social capital and his book, "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis".

Until more people read, understand, embrace, then act upon this information too few kids will have the opportunities that are available in America.   Please read and share.

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