I’ve just come back from a 4-day conference in which I gave 2 academic presentations, hosted a few educational business meetings and generally had a fantastic time. But now I’m exhausted. I hope that what I write here actually makes sense…
You ask for my opinion regarding how Bilgi may develop sensitivity about how social capital actually works. Yours is a very astute observation of how I see Bilgi’s problems. From what the video presented, Bilgi’s attempts at developing social capital were one-sided and authoritarian.
But what could they do to develop sensitivity? Fukuyama’s operational definition of social capital offers a suggestion:
“Social capital is an instantiated informal norm that promotes co-operation between individuals” (2001, abstract).
Let’s unpack this a bit. The verb instantiate is similar to the notion of construct in research design. That is, it points to a surface representation of an occluded, a hidden aspect in the same way that an English language test score represents an underlying ability in English. Claridge (2004) observes that “the use of proxy indicators is necessary” to represent social capital. So what are the underlying aspects in social capital, and what must rise to the surface that can be assessed or manipulated? Narayan and Cassidy (2001) identify constructs of trust, identity, tolerance of diversity, engagement, notions of security and social cohesion, safety and security, and attitudes towards governance (p. 64). These constructs find representation in how people act towards each other. From this, we can advise Bilgi to assess these constructs by using tools such as Narayan and Cassidy’s Dimensional Approach (2001) adapted to particular needs of Bilgi and the neighbouring population.
But care must be taken. Fukuyama’s second term, informal, is highly suggestive of the need for a bottom-up approach. That is, simply setting up English lessons for children in the local areas may not be enough. This methodology risks the locals simply taking what they can from Bilgi without ever developing the informal relationships that Fukuyama argues is necessary. One way to achieve this may be to empower academics (those who teach the free English courses) by giving them merit for spending more time with the locals than is strictly necessary for the administration of those classes. Markus and Nurius’s (1986) notion of possible future selves may be a potential source of inspiration for Bilgi. More informal time with the local children spent discussing and developing their futures (possibly with a tie-in to future Bilgi-sponsored scholarships) may help promote this informal route.
Fukuyama’s final item that I want to discuss is co-operation. Implicit here is the idea that both sides work towards goals that “are related to traditional virtues” (p. 7). Bilgi’s insistence on its “particular [political] stance” (Laureate, 2011) is admirable but not in alignment with their goal of developing social capital.
Claridge, T. (2004). Measurement of Social Capital. In Social capital and natural resource management (unpublished thesis). University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. Retrieved from http://www.socialcapitalresearch.com/measurement.html
Fukuyama, F. (2001). Social capital, civil society and development. Third World Quarterly, 22(1), 7–20. doi:10.1080/0143659002002254
Laureate. (2011). Optimising diverse social resources: Bilgi University.
Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41(9), 954–969. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.41.9.954
Narayan, D., & Cassidy, M. F. (2001). A dimensional approach to measuring social capital: Development and validation of a social capital inventory. Current Sociology, 49(2), 59–102.