Our relationships and networks – online and offline – are hugely valuable. Instinctively we know that they help us to survive and thrive. It is through these networks (and the trust we have in them) that we do things for each other – contributing to the common good.
Sociologists call the inherent value that is associated with social networking, “social capital”. While social capital includes money and things, it is much more than this. It is everything that people share through networks to improve the lives of others – like information, mobility, time, expertise, experience, skills, acceptance, support and so forth.
Here is a South African reality: In South Africa some social networks are imbued with a lot of social capital. These networks help to establish and maintain life enhancing things in some communities. Imagine for example the amount of support that some schools are able to draw on from parents – above and beyond paying school fees. Many parents participate in committees and school governing bodies, sharing their time, money, expertise and personal networks to achieve specific goals aimed at improving the quality of schooling for the children in that school.
However, the social networks of many people in South Africa don’t have much of the types of capital1 – or excesses of capital- that can be channeled towards significantly improving life quality. Their networks form critical safety-nets that enables day-to-day survival, a much more basic function than life enhancement.
One of the simple things we can do as individuals and communities is to broaden our social networks to ensure that different types of social capital can flow where it can enhance life and help build healthy communities – for all of us.
As a starting point we can use our networks to create circles of care for the development and wellbeing of children. Here is how you can go about it: