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Measuring the Dimensions of Social Capital

Groups and Networks

The effectiveness with which groups and networks fulfill their roles depends on many aspects of these groups, reflecting their structure, membership and the way they function. Key characteristics of formal groups that need to be measured include: density of membership, diversity of membership, extent of democratic functioning, extent of connections to other groups.

E.g. asking questions on specific, hypothetical situations: If you suddenly needed a small amount of money, how many people beyond your immediate household could you turn to? 


There are several types of trust: within established relationships and social networks; trust extended to strangers (often on the basis of expectations of behavior or a sense of shared norms); trust in the institutions of governance (including fairness of rules, official procedures, dispute resolution and resource allocation).Different types of questions are necessary to investigate different types of trust.

 E.g., if you were caring for a child and needed to go out for a while, would you ask a neighbor for help?;  Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted, or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people .

Collective action

The extent of collective action can, when it is not imposed by an external force, be measured and used as a proxy indicator of underlying social capital.

E.g., Do you help out a local group as a volunteer?; Have you attended a local community event in the past 6 months (eg church fete, school concert, craft exhibition)?

Social inclusion

Questions on this dimension of social capital are intended to find out who in the community is included in collective action, decision-making, and access to services. The sections ranges from general questions on perceptions of social unity and togetherness in the community to specific experiences with exclusion from decision-making processes and/or services/project benefits.

E.g., Are there any services where you or members of your household are occasionally denied service or have only limited opportunity to use?

Information and Communication

Maintaining and enhancing social capital depends critically on the ability of the members of a community to communicate among each other, with other communities and with members of their networks that live outside the community.

E.g., Inquire about the availability of a number of important means of communication and sources of information: post office, telephone, newspaper, radio and television.

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