Mali is facing a complex crisis, characterized by ongoing conflict and fragility. The country has experienced numerous security challenges, including inter-communal violence, insurgency, terrorism, and organized crime (OCHA, 2020). The ongoing conflict and insecurity have had a severe impact on the lives and well-being of the people, especially in rural areas (UNDP, 2018). The development of a comprehensive crisis analysis framework is crucial for understanding the underlying causes of the crisis and for designing effective interventions to address them.
In this paper we examine the theoretical underpinnings of Social Capital Theory and the Community Capitals Framework to establish a baseline and later on develop indicators for in-depth crisis analysis research in the country.
Social capital theory has been increasingly used in research as a means to examine the relationships and networks within communities, and how these relationships and networks can impact individuals, groups, and communities. Social Capital Theory, as articulated by Pierre Bourdieu and James Coleman, suggests that social networks and relationships within a community can provide important resources and support during times of crisis. Social capital is defined as the "...features of social organisation, such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate cooperation and coordination" (Rasul & Quilley, 2015, p. 2) or as “... the networks, norms, and trust that exist within a society and allow individuals to act collectively for mutual benefit.” (Putnam, 2000). The theory suggests that strong social networks and relationships can allow communities to mobilise resources quickly and effectively in response to crisis situations.
The Community Capitals Framework (CCF), developed by Cornelia Butler Flora and Jan L. Flora, provides a more comprehensive approach to analysing the resources and strengths within a community. Unlike social capital theory, which focuses on social networks and relationships, the CCF expands upon this by considering all of the assets, or "capitals," that a community possesses. These seven forms of capital - natural, cultural, human, social, political, financial, and built capital - are used to understand how each type of capital contributes to the overall social capital of a community.
Natural capital refers to the natural resources available within a community, such as land, water, and forests. Cultural capital refers to the cultural heritage and traditions of a community. Human capital refers to the skills and knowledge of individuals within a community, such as education and training, but also includes health. Social capital refers to the networks and relationships within a community, as discussed in Social Capital Theory. Political capital refers to the power and influence within a community, including the ability to make decisions and shape policies. Financial capital refers to the financial resources available within a community, and built capital encompasses the infrastructure that communities have, such as roads, community centres, or even access to mobile networks and public transport.
The use of social capital theory with the community capitals framework in research in Malian villages will form the baseline and provide the indicators for a wider crisis analysis by allowing the researchers to understand the complex interplay between these various forms of capital, and how they interact to shape a community's ability to respond to crisis situations. For example, a community with strong social capital might be able to quickly mobilise resources in response to a crisis, but this effort might be limited by the lack of financial capital available.
Understanding the interplay between these capitals can inform strategies to strengthen the community's resilience in the face of crisis.
The application of the CCF in research in Malian villages can also provide valuable insights into the ways in which communities, with or without external assistance, can build their capacities and resilience in (future) crisis situations. For example, investments in human capital, such as education and training programs, can build the skills and capacities of individuals within the community. By understanding the various capitals within a community and how they can be leveraged to respond to crisis situations, researchers can develop targeted strategies to build resilience and ensure that communities are prepared to respond effectively to future challenges.
Malian villages are often characterised by strong social networks and a high level of social trust. This social capital has been shown to play a critical role in the ability of communities to respond to crisis situations, such as food insecurity and natural disasters (Brouwer, Azzaretti, & te Lindert, 2011).
In Malian villages - and in urban settings alike - each form of capital is critical to the community's ability to respond to crisis situations.
The measurement of social cohesion in a community can be difficult as it is an abstract concept that encompasses various dimensions. However, research has established a set of commonly measured dimensions of social cohesion, including trust, collective action norms, belonging, identity, attitudes towards external groups, and civic engagement.
The dimensions of social cohesion allow for a comprehensive understanding of the social capital within a community and how it contributes to community resilience and overall well-being. Trust, collective action norms, belonging, identity, attitudes towards external groups, and civic engagement are key indicators of social cohesion because they reflect the level of trust, cooperation, and collaboration among community members.
These dimensions provide insight into the level of social capital within a community, which has been linked to a variety of positive outcomes such as improved health, better education, higher levels of income, and greater political stability (Putnam, 1993). Additionally, the measurement of these dimensions can also identify areas for improvement, allowing for targeted interventions to enhance social cohesion and resilience.
Furthermore, the integration of social cohesion measurements with the Community Capital Framework (CCF) offers a more comprehensive approach to analysing and addressing community needs in crisis and fragile contexts. The CCF recognizes the interdependence of different forms of capital and the importance of considering multiple forms of capital in order to better understand a community's strengths and resources. By integrating measurements of social cohesion, the CCF is able to provide a more nuanced understanding of the social capital within a community and how it contributes to overall resilience.
The use of social capital theory and the seven forms of capital in research in Malian villages is a useful tool to provide a baseline for a wider crisis analysis by allowing researchers to understand the existing relationships, networks, and resources within the community. This information can be used to determine the ability of the community to respond to crises, such as food insecurity, natural disasters, or conflict.
The additional analysis of the dimensions of social cohesion can provide important insights into the level of social capital and the strength of social networks in a community. Understanding the level of social cohesion in a community in turn can provide important information for conflict analysis and the design of interventions aimed at improving social cohesion and reducing conflict and to develop strategies to strengthen the community's ability to respond to crisis situations and ensure their resilience in the face of challenges.
This is a first paper on the underpinnings of social capital theory and the community capitals framework. We will follow up once the data is analysed with a paper on the methodology, the operationalisation of the concepts outlined above and (initial) findings.
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