Social capital is a collective societal connection and understanding that enables individuals or groups to build trust and to work together. Shared values and connections facilitate co-operation within a network, leading to trust creation and healthy working relationships.

When it comes to stakeholder consultation, a network can be a specific company, project or industry, and its stakeholders and rights holders.

Here’s your overview to help understand social capital, and make the most of your new insights when building relationships with your stakeholders.

How does social capital work?

Social capital facilitates co-operation and communication within and between groups.

The central premise of social capital is that networks have value and influence – and that there are inclinations that arise from these networks that lead to individuals or groups doing things for each other.

Social capital is the glue that bonds people together around shared ideas, and generates good faith.

Building social capital

Can social capital be expanded? Yes. Creating new ties and strengthening old ones can build social capital. These connections may increase opportunities by linking people more strongly to their community or to larger societal resources.

Developing network ties can also strengthen bonds that link groups and help bridge divisions between them. Communication and outreach is central to generating social capital, which creates a capacity for collaboration among individuals and groups within a network.

Influence and relevance to stakeholder management

In stakeholder consultation projects, being able to build networks is a very important skill.

Understanding the influence and authority of specific networks, and being sensitive to stakeholder relationships provides a real advantage when proceeding with a community consultation.

Having a good read of who talks with whom, who gets along (and who doesn’t), leads to the development of more effective communication strategies. A couple of key outcomes to aim for include nurturing positive word-of-mouth and building goodwill related to your consultation process.

Questions to consider:

  • Which of the stakeholders  or rights holders affected by your project have relationships with each other?
  • Do these groups of stakeholders or rights holders represent the same point of view?
  • What connections do they have linking them to each other?
  • Is there one group making the decisions?
  • Do the stakeholder or rights holder groups interact? Are they opponents?

Value in understanding

Understanding social capital and how it influences stakeholder and rights-holder groups can help your organization build equity – both for your brand or a specific project.

It’s important to step back and take the time to fully comprehend the individuals and communities affected by a project and their relationships with each other, so that circumstances and perspectives that had never been considered don’t arise unexpectedly.

A focus on social capital allows a company to understand the dynamics of a situation and create effective frameworks for managing it. Understanding relationships and measuring the level of support is an effective way to generate goodwill and mitigate unexpected challenges during the public consultation process.

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