The term social capital might be trending on social media right now, but it existed long before Facebook or hashtags. The National Conference on Citizenship defines social capital as “the networks of social relationships characterized by norms of trust and reciprocity.” It’s about developing connections with others and using those connections to provide people with access to opportunities or resources.
So why should building social capital be important to you?
Social capital creates ties across communities. At its core is trust – when neighbors trust one another, when people from different backgrounds trust one another, they are more likely to help one another.
Increasing human connectedness can also lead to better health and happiness, as well as boost a city’s civic health, education, economy and philanthropy.
Building social capital in your community can start small, but taking even a few simple steps is important for the health of our region as a whole. Here are 20 ideas to get you started:
- Have a dinner party and ask everyone to bring a guest.
- Gather a group of friends and go volunteer.
- Learn the names of St. Louis’ elected officials.
- Help rake a neighbor’s yard or shovel his or her snow.
- Start a health or exercise group.
- During the holidays, adopt or fundraise to support a family in need.
- Organize or participate in a street block party.
- Start a book club at your workplace.
- Find and join civic or social groups that will lead to meeting people outside of your friend circle.
- Join a nonprofit board of directors.
- Start a mentor or mentee relationship with a professional in your field.
- Be intentional about calling long-distance friends.
- Organize a clothing drive at your workplace to donate to a local nonprofit.
- Pay for the person behind you at a drive-thru or counter.
- Research and share the history of your neighborhood.
- Offer to return the shopping cart of a stranger who is loading his or her car.
- Plant a garden and share the extra bounty.
- Attend city council meetings.
- Be generous with small favors.
- Tell friends and family about social capital and explain why it is important.
Building social capital to build trust in our community starts with you. What are you doing in your neighborhood, church, school, workplace or civic association to build social capital?
Take action now:
- Visit United Way of Greater St. Louis’ Volunteer Center to browse volunteer opportunities across our region.
- Looking for more even ways to get involved in your community this year? Check out our 2019 Do-Good Calendar for ideas!
- Share this story with friends and family!
Emily Knippa is the director of digital engagement at United Way of Greater St. Louis.