Networks for resilience: The role of social capital

Quinn Bernier, Ruth Suseela Meinzen-Dick
food policy report

This report investigates the under-explored role that local forms of social capital, in particular local organizations and social networks, play in enhancing resilience. The case studies used are of Ethiopian funeral societies and Filipino migrant networks.

Main findings 

Local social capital systems can play a positive role in individual, household, and community risk-smoothing and risk-sharing practices by providing bonding, bridging, and linking capital that allow people to better cope, adapt, and transform. Impact is context specific, however, and can vary in the strength and the social group or groups covered. Community groups are also generally much more effective in dealing with shocks that affect individual members rather than many in the group, but face challenges when mobilizing resources that are outside of communities.

Policy implications

There are a number of steps governments can take to strengthen policy interventions designed to support and contribute to local-level resilience building: 

  • Do no harm—interventions that ignore or interact poorly with existing local forms of social capital can provoke a variety of unplanned negative impacts.
  • Identify the bases and strengths of local social capital.
  • Provide assistance for community groups to access external resources, be they from institutional entrepreneurs or local innovation support funds.
  • Extend a long-term commitment to capacity building.
  • Create institutional arrangements to encourage transformative investments from remittances.
  • Strengthen inclusive social networks.