Social Capital – Building Your Network

How to increase your social capital

Social capital is about building rapport, bonding and valuing your social networks. It is the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively. The term has been in use since the late 1800s and became popular during the early 1900s. 


Social capital broadly refers to those factors of effectively functioning social groups that include such things as interpersonal relationships, a shared sense of identity, a shared understanding, shared norms, shared values, trust, cooperation, and reciprocity. However, the many views of this complex subject make a single definition difficult.


Definitions of Social Capital

Due to it being highly complexity, social capital has a vast number of definitions. There is no clear meaning resulting in no set of common agreed upon definitions of social capital. Therefore, the definition taken on by an individual, institution or study will depend on the discipline or particular level or study set upon.

Lyda Hanifan defined it as “ tangible assets that count for most in the daily lives of people: namely goodwill, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse among the individuals and families who make up a social unit”.


Below are other definitions from Social Capital Research Training website.

Baker ‘a resource that actors derive from specific social structures and then use to pursue their interests; it is created by changes in the relationship among actors’; (Baker 1990, p. 619)[16].
Belliveau, O’Reilly, Wade ‘an individual’s personal network and elite institutional affiliations’ (Belliveau et al. 1996, p. 1572)[17].
Bourdieu ‘the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance or recognition’ (Bourdieu 1986, p. 248)[18].’made up of social obligations (‘connections’), which is convertible, in certain conditions, into economic capital and may be institutionalized in the form of a title of nobility’ (Bourdieu 1986, p. 243)[18].
Bourdieu Wacquant ‘the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition’ (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992, p. 119)[19].
Boxman, De Graai. Flap ‘the number of people who can be expected to provide support and the resources those people have at their disposal’ (Boxman et al. 1991, p. 52)[20].
Burt ‘friends, colleagues, and more general contacts through whom you receive opportunities to use your financial and human capital’ (Burt 1992, p. 9)[21].’the brokerage opportunities in a network’ (Burt 1997, p. 355)[21].
Knoke ‘the process by which social actors create and mobilize their network connections within and between organizations to gain access to other social actors’ resources’ (Knoke 1999, p. 18)[22].
Portes ‘the ability of actors to secure benefits by virtue of membership in social networks or other social structures’ (Portes 1998, p. 6)[23].
Brehm Rhan ‘the web of cooperative relationships between citizens that facilitate resolution of collective action problems’ (Brehm and Rahn 1997, p. 999)[24].
Coleman ‘Social capital is defined by its function. It is not a single entity, but a variety of different entities having two characteristics in common: They all consist of some aspect of social structure, and they facilitate certain actions of individuals who are within the structure’ (Coleman 1990, p. 302)[25].
Fukuyama ‘the ability of people to work together for common purposes in groups and organizations’ (Fukuyama 1995, p. 10)[26].’Social capital can be defined simply as the existence of a certain set of informal values or norms shared among members of a group that permit cooperation among them’ (Fukuyama 1997)[26].
Inglehart ‘a culture of trust and tolerance, in which extensive networks of voluntary associations emerge’ (Inglehart 1997, p. 188)[27].
Portes Sensenbrenner ‘those expectations for action within a collectivity that affect the economic goals and goal’ seeking behavior of its members, even if these expectations are not oriented toward the economic sphere’ (Portes and Sensenbrenner 1993, p. 1323)[28].
Putnam ‘features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit’ (Putnam 1995, p. 67)[29].
Thomas ‘those voluntary means and processes developed within civil society which promote development for the collective whole’ (Thomas 1996, p. 11)[30].
Loury ‘naturally occurring social relationships among persons which promote or assist the acquisition of skills and traits valued in the marketplace. . . an asset which may be as significant as financial bequests in accounting for the maintenance of inequality in our society’ (Loury 1992, p. 100)[31].
Nahapiet and Ghoshal ‘the sum of the actual and potential resources embedded within, available through, and derived from the network of relationships possessed by an individual or social unit. Social capital thus comprises both the network and the assets that may be mobilized through that network’ (Nahapiet and Ghoshal 1998, p. 243)[32].
Pennar ‘the web of social relationships that influences individual behavior and thereby affects economic growth’ (Pennar 1997, p. 154)[33].
Schiff ‘the set of elements of the social structure that affects relations among people and are inputs or arguments of the production and/or utility function’ (Schiff 1992, p. 160)[34].
Woolcock ‘the information, trust, and norms of reciprocity inhering in one’s social networks’ (Woolcock 1998, p. 153)[34].

The table above was taken from Social Capital Research and Training

Claridge, T., 2004. Social Capital and Natural Resource Management: An important role for social capital? Unpublished Thesis, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


How to increase your social capital
How to increase your social capital

How To Increase Your Social Capital


Send a thank you card or follow up email after a meeting.

Call someone in your network

Send a birthday, Christmas or well done card.

Organize a party for a new neighbor

Get to know your children’s teachers

Pass on a referral

Write a testimonial

Support local businesses and merchants

Post a blog written by them on your blog

Join and participate in groups or clubs.

Connect with people on more than one social networking site.

Send an article of interest to someone who needs it.

Gather a group of people and clean the local park

Open the door for someone who has their hands full

Send a small gift.

Invite a friend to some corporate hospitality

Volunteer once in a while

Mentor someone of a different background

Have a one-to-one meeting with someone.

Bring along a guest to a networking meeting.