Are We Fostering Social Capital?

Do CYFAR (and 4-H) youth programs foster the development of social capital?

It is a good question and one that has often been addressed in presentations at past CYFAR Conferences by Community Programs seeking to promote resilience and positive youth development in our youth.

“It extends the circle of social inclusion to groups of youth and their families who are often marginalized from the mainstream. In so doing it enables young people to understand first-hand the meaning of ‘membership’ in a political community.... Involvement in a CYFAR program sends a message to young people that ‘they belong, they matter, their opinion counts in issues that affect them’.” Flanagan

One of our earliest resources still available online was a keynote presentation by Connie Flanagan, then of Penn State and now at the University of Wisconsin, at the 2002 CYFAR Conference. She gave a powerful presentation, US and THEM: Trust, Democracy, and Youth Development, that emphasizes the role of youth programs such as CYFAR in building a sense of trust and inclusion.

Another early relevant CYFAR piece by Dan Perkins (PA) provided an approach to explaining positive youth development and how it builds social capital.

Doreen Hauser-Lindstrom (WA) and Lynette Flage (ND) in their 2006 CYFAR seminar challenged each of us to assess what we were doing, as a program and as individuals, to connect citizens to build social capital. They invoked the six components of social capital (civic engagement, trust, civic responsibility, member power, networks, community vitality) and dared us to ask ourselves some good questions.

Susan Jakes, Autumn Guin, and Andrew Behnke (NC) along with Boyd Rossing (WI), Dan Perkins (PA), and Barbara Brown (SC) taught us community building strategies, including discovering unseen assets to recognize true community capacity, exploring the need for and process of developing multicultural competence, and the concept of ecological programming. The CYFERnet Community Editorial Board led by Jakes and Guin has also presented a number of online seminars in building community capacity—you may want to check out to view those you missed.

Marilyn Rasmussen and Ann Daniels, with their SD team, talked about the power of school-community collaborations that form the basis of their CYFAR project for building social capital. Nora Luna and Cynthia Vazquez (NV) presented on the importance of Community Cultural Wealth as one of the lessons learned from their CYFAR program.

The NIFA Webinar Presenters gave CYFAR audiences an early peek at their study and its results at the 2011 DoD/USDA Family Resilience Conference. They (Barbara Baker, ME; Matt Calvert, WI; Mary Emery, IA; Richard Enfield, CA; and Sharon Kinsey, NJ) demonstrated how to use their Community Mapping Tool to assess how program activities support (or do not support) building social capital. A second seminar from this conference by Emery, Jakes, Guin, and Laura Laumatia (IA) walked through the Six Rs community coaching process, another tool to build trust and the sense of inclusion. These two presentations could provide a strong background and set of tools to prepare you to participate in the upcoming webinar. Is your youth program building social capital? Could you strengthen its impact, extend the circle of social inclusion, and let more youth know that they matter and that their ideas, actions, and opinions are valued? These resources and the upcoming NIFA webinar can be an opportunity to consider again how your youth program fosters the building of social capital.

References & Resources: 

Baker, Calvert, Emery, Enfield, & Kinsey. (2011). Capturing positive youth contributions using the community capitals framework

Emery, Jakes, Guin, & Laumatia. (2011). Coaching for community change: Approaches for implementing sustainable strategies for healthy communities and youth

Flanagan. (2002). US and THEM: Trust, democracy, and youth development

Hauser-Lindstrom & Flage. (2006). Social capital: Connecting citizens to strengthen communities

Jakes, Guin, Behnke, Rossing, Perkins, & Brown. (2007). Community building approaches to working with children, youth, and families

Luna & Vazquez. (2010). Community cultural wealth: Lessons learned in implementing a middle school program with Latina/Latino students

Perkins. (1997). A method on presenting key concepts regarding positive youth development to community audiences

Rasmussen, Daniels, Lehrke, Mack, Johnson, Dangel, & Kirkham. (2011). Building strong communities through school-extension partnerships

Author(s), Presenter(s): 
Dunham, T.
Year published or updated: