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The Contribution of Social Capital in the Social Economy to Local Economic Development in Western Europe, Final Report, EUR 23118

Project ID: HPSE-CT-1999-00016


The concept of social capital features in recent European policies and programmes for local development and social economy, but is beset with definitional problems making it a concept that is difficult to put to use. The CONSCISE Project - "The Contribution of Social Capital in the Social Economy to Local Economic Development in Western Europe" - has examined ways in which social enterprises in 8 different locations in Europe use and build social capital.
The CONSCISE Project developed a working definition of social capital comprising of six elements - trust, reciprocity and mutuality, shared norms, sense of belonging and commitment, social networks and information channels. This was then used in local socio-economic profiling to explore whether local social capital had an impact upon the emergence of social enterprises and a social accounting framework to examine how social enterprises use and build social capital. The project has produced a number of insights.
A survey-derived index of local social capital was produced for each of the eight localities, which compared well to other proxy indicators of social capital for the localities. However, this told us little about whether social capital enhances local development. What was more important than measurement was examining the operation of social capital in a local context, where aspects of social, political and economic development might effect the level and impact of social capital. While local social capital was in evidence in small, isolated rural localities we found that in large, dense and socially diverse urban locations, social capital was more associated with various communities of interest, groups and organisations. In addition it became clear that the balance and 'management' of bonding (within group) and bridging (between group) social capital would be important for social enterprises to gain positive advantages from the resource.

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