Social Capital

 

Community Connections

Since attending Royal Roads University I have never been so disconnected from my community. I have little to no social capital within the city of Victoria. Due to the heavy workload I have not had an opportunity to get involved in community events or organizations. I am currently not involved in any committees or organizations; however, I have four roommates which give me the opportunity to network with students in other programs; however my involvement is extremely limited.  I also do not have any family in the area.

At Loyalist College I was actively involved on campus and within the community. I worked at the Fitness Centre, in the Tutoring Centre and within the Bioscience Department. I had the opportunity to get to know students and faculty of all programs. I tutored students in the nursing program and served as a writing tutor for all programs. Working at the Fitness Centre, I got to know regulars at the gym and got to know the people from the fitness program. I worked as a lab technician and got to know students in my program in other years. I volunteered and mentored prospective students. I also organized events such as Campus Clean Ups; where I was able to connect with members of the community and get them involved on campus. Looking at Loyalist College as a community I was extremely connected with the community in many ways. I also had close friends and family in the area. I had social capital that would be characterized as Bonding, Bridging and Vertical.

Characteristics of my networks

My networks include work colleagues, professional contacts, high school, college and university cohorts,  family (extended and close), friends, acquaintances and close friends. These networks mostly represent both Bonding and Bridging social capital; however some could also be considered Vertical.

I would argue that my network at Loyalist College had a high density, it was open and diverse. My work networks are more loose, open, homogeneous (mostly people in the same field/like-minded) and could be defined as both hierarchical (due to supervisors, managers and employees) but also flat (co-workers).

Due to my recent move to Victoria, the physical proximity to my networks has had an effect on them. At the moment, a lot of these networks are maintained through Facebook, Skype and long distance phone calls; and some are not being maintained; they are simply another “friend” on Facebook with the intentions of “catching up at some point”. I believe that the distance from Ontario to BC has weakened these networks. This move has removed me from my networks. Unfortunately, I currently do not have the time or ability to rebuild my social capital. I hope that after I complete my schooling I have the opportunity to get involved in the community again.

Components of social capital

When I was actively involved with Loyalist College I had a sense of trust, safety and security. The fabric of the people within my community was well diversified. They were from all walks of life with different beliefs, goals and specializations.  Many of these people were actively involved in the local community.  There was a strong sense of value for all members of the community and we all generally looked out for one another. There were also connections between work, family and friends. There was a lot of bridging that could take place between different networks.

There are also nodes within my network that actively provided linkages between networks. At Loyalist College there was effort to maintain all programs as a campus community.

 

Image Credit: Eric Bauer and Susan Dorval

Image Credit: Eric Bauer and Susan Dorval

Social Capital and Sustainability

Looking at my networks from Ontario, I was able to use my connections to help get more people involved in sustainable event and raise awareness about environmental and social concerns. These networks, especially within the College resulted in a greater sense of place. It gave me a sense of fulfillment and pride. I was not only connected with the people in my community but I cared deeply about my community. I took joy in participating in community events and took pride in my community. I would argue that this influenced me to invest time, energy and money into the community. It had a positive influence on my own sustainability. I cared about my school and hometown so I acted accordingly, and I influenced those around me to get involved and conform to the same social norms. Sometimes this was seen even in the simplicity of influencing people on campus to recycle the waste from their lunch.

Overall, I would argue that increased social capital allows you to feel connected to a community and motivate you to care for that community and take care of it. For me this meant living more sustainability to ensure longevity and vitality of the community. Social capital also gives you an opportunity for influence to achieve sustainability.  With more networks and connections you have more power to drive change and truly make a difference.

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