Do social capital and networks facilitate community participation'

Research paper by Mudit Kumar Singh, James Moody

Indexed on: 07 May '21Published on: 05 May '21Published in: The International journal of sociology and social policy


The purpose of this paper is to find theoretical and practical linkages between social capital, network and community participation. The study examines the role of popular social capital and its forms in shaping community participation under the influence of socioeconomic status of individuals. The paper uses household survey data (N = 135) from select north Indian villages to assess the role of social capital and individuals’ networks (measured through their network size) in participation. The participation is measured in terms of attendance and vocal participation. The study finds significant evidence that the networks do not play a uniform role in collective participation. The elitist form of social capital exists in the community which can leverage the networks to their benefit, whereas many people, despite large network size, cannot actively participate. Social capital and networks are not entirely conducive for collective participation and favours a few in the community. Additionally, networks do facilitate information flow but do not help in achieving active engagement. Hence, the peer effect is not truly reflected in vocal participation all the time, especially in local governance context. The conclusion of the study is based on small sample size from seven villages. Nonetheless, in light of the supporting literature available, it provides useful insights and triggers important questions that need microscopic analysis under the macroscopic umbrella of social capital. On policy fronts, takeaway from this paper can be used for policy and law formulation for lower strata of the society such as labour law formulation and labour behavioural practices in community participation. The research findings can be utilized for the emerging applications of social networks in understanding local governance and community engagement in developing societies. This research has used a novel field experiment conducted by one of the authors himself. The empirical assessment of social capital and networks in local governance can be replicated elsewhere to study participation in other societies as well. In terms of policy, the research underscores the need of using social capital notion while assessing the community engagement in local governance.