BUILDING SOCIAL CAPITAL AND ENDING ISOLATION

Isolation shows up differently in all our lives.  Often we are surrounded by others, yet we are still not connected.  We see this as an increasing and severe problem facing all of us as individuals, employers and friends.  The mission of Hopewell is to end isolation through shared experiences.

This mission is important to us, no only because we like living and working in community with others, but because isolation can have real, physical effects on our health and well-being.

How serious is loneliness and isolation?  We have spent a lot of time discussing and learning about the idea of social capital and its effect on our health, and how improving social capital can combat the sense of isolation we feel in work.

In fact, here are some startling statistics from Harvard professor of public policy and political scientist Robert Putnam’s website:

  • Joining and participating in one group cuts in half your odds of dying next year.
  • Every ten minutes of commuting reduces all forms of social capital by 10%
  • Watching commercial entertainment TV is the only leisure activity where doing more of it is associated with lower social capital.

Declining Social Capital: Trends over the last 25 years

  • Attending Club Meetings - 58% drop
  • Family dinners - 43% drop
  • Having friends over - 35% drop.

To understand the importance of connection to our lives we have to better understand how to define what social capital is.  Putnam’s 2000 book, Bowling Alone, brought the idea of social capital out of sociology classrooms and into public discourse. It went viral, if you will. Here’s how Putnam defines social capital on his website:

Social Capital Primer

The central premise of social capital is that social networks have value. Social capital refers to the collective value of all “social networks” [who people know] and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other [“norms of reciprocity”].

How does social capital work?

The term social capital emphasizes not just warm and cuddly feelings, but a wide variety of quite specific benefits that flow from the trust, reciprocity, information, and cooperation associated with social networks. Social capital creates value for the people who are connected and – at least sometimes – for bystanders as well.

We’re excited to use Hopewell as a vehicle to do our part in building connections in our community.  Instead of hoping that this will solve itself we’ll be trying to measure the impact through the framework of social capital.  Please join us in building strong communities!