“With the exception of some high-flying migrant species, nature doesn't commute to work.” - Janine Benyus, Biomimicry

Aquinas College

Building Social Capital


Beggar in Nepal
Photo courtesy of Bigfoto

What is it worth to have employees who feel fulfilled? What is the value of healthy communities? Of the three legs in sustainability, social capital is the most difficult to define and measure, and therefore has a tendency to be placed on the back burner.

From a business perspective, it is costly and time-consuming to attract, train and retain quality employees. A business committed to the triple bottom line will provide an environment for their employees that welcomes diversity and innovation, and provides a sense of fulfillment and pride. A sustainable business will treat their employees with respect, and offer a livable wage, fair health benefits, and a work environment that improves productivity, safety and well being. These types of organizations have a competitive advantage, as worker retention and productivity are certainly measurable improvements to the bottom line. In addition, investors and consumers are increasingly valuing this type of social responsibility.

A business' employees are part of a community and they carry sustainable values with them, allowing social equity to spill into the other component of building social capital: building healthy communities.


Better Together

Better Together is the outcome of an initiative called The Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America, organized by Professor Robert D. Putnam at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The project focused on expanding what we know about our levels of trust and community engagement and on developing strategies and efforts to increase this engagement.

The signature effort was a multi-year dialogue on how we can increasingly build bonds of civic trust among Americans and their communities. "Better Together" is the final report of the Saguaro Seminar. Click here to learn more about the Better Together initiative and download a copy of your own.

Civic Practices Network

Civic Practices Network (CPN) is a collaborative and nonpartisan project bringing together a diverse array of organizations and perspectives within the civic renewal movement.

This site offers a database of essays and papers that cover everything from case studies on civic innovation and grassroots environmental initiatives to community health reform and essays on employee empowerment. This is a comprehensive website that will inform you of the great potential and necessity of civic involvement for community building and renewal.

Institute for Sustainable Communities

The Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) is an independent, nonprofit organization that helps communities in existing and emerging democracies solve problems while building a better future. With the focus on environmental, economic, and social concerns, ISC gives communities— and the organizations that support them— the training, technical assistance, and grants they need to solve their problems and sustain themselves independently.

Visit this site to learn more about ISC’s projects worldwide and to have access to their many success stories in building social, environmental and financial capital.

Paul Bullen Management Alternatives for Human Services

This page of the Paul Bullen Management Alternatives for Human Services outlines some basic ideas, the value, and the importance of social capital, natural capital, financial capital and human capital. Social capital is made up of the relationships and networks formed between people, or human capital.

This site discusses the necessity of building social capital in civil societies, economic development, human and environmental health, and community development. It also provides links to relevant papers in the "resources" section in support of building social capital and its role in sustainable development.

Quest Sustainable Solutions

"Quest is dedicated to the development and growth of people, while striving to create value through knowledge and increase individual and organizational competence." Quest Sustainable Solutions offers consulting services to businesses with an interest in greening their company.

Small Planet Institute

Founded by Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé, the Small Planet Institute brings to light the emergence of "living democracy", a rewarding, inclusive, and learned practice that creates communities that work for everyone.

This site offers encouraging ways to get involved in the building of social capital both locally and globally. It offers published resources and suggestions for ten things you can do right now to improve local community relationships and promote sustainable community building.

Sustainable Communities Network

The mission of Sustainable Communities Network (SCN) is to link “citizens to resources and to one another to create healthy, vital, sustainable communities.” This site provides many civic resources including downloadable guides to planning a sustainable event, a starter kit for community building, and a case study map and index which allows you to click and learn about sustainable community initiatives in your state or nationwide!

Funded by the Steelcase Foundation of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Header photo by Carol Y. Swinehart, courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant Extension
Site by CMC/GrandNet