Do You Live in a Social Capital Desert? by Charles Hugh Smith

What can you draw on from the people around you, the people you know? What can they draw on from you? From Charles Hugh Smith at

Necessity is a magnet, and perhaps as what’s essential in our lives changes, social capital will start sprouting, even in the most unlikely places.

“Desert” has become a favored metaphor: food deserts describe neighborhoods with few places to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, democracy deserts describe political regions rigged by gerrymandering, and so on.

Many of us working our way forward to a more resilient, sustainable and healthier future talk about social capital–the intangible but very real network of connections and relationships that characterize social mammals such as humans.

We call this network of ties and trust “capital” because it takes time and effort to build and maintain, and it generates value.

The value generated by social capital has many forms, but the one most commonly cited is favors with an economic value. We say we’re “calling in favors” when we seek help in locating clients, contractors, mechanics, employees, etc., or ask for help in childcare, yardwork, picking someone up at the airport, etc.

The foundations of this form of social capital are 1) longstanding ties to families, schools, home towns or neighborhoods, etc., and 2) reciprocity, being generous with one’s connections, time, experience and expertise to one’s network.

This “investment” isn’t made with calculated returns in mind (though some people do offer help in the hopes of gaining something of far more value than they offered); the eventual value generated is unknown, but everything that’s given–especially the trust that you do what you say you’ll do– is like a savings account that adds value to your place in the network.

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