Framing Question: To what extent can social capital create concrete connections that could be utilized in a disaster?
Social capital, or the resources available to people through their social networks, is argued to be “the strongest and most robust predictor of population recovery after catastrophe” (Aldrige 2011). Social capital, especially when organized with a community organization at its hub, gives people a platform to make change, otherwise known as agency. Individual or collective agency “can encourage innovations in cooperative crisis response, including the equitable distribution of resources even under circumstances of extreme scarcity” (Davidson 2010). The 2011 earthquake in Lyttelton, New Zealand is an example of a small community utilizing social capital to create a faster and more efficient disaster response.
Lyttelton is unique in that it had implemented a system called a TimeBank before the earthquake hit. The TimeBank is a social capital system in which time and talent are exchanged for goods and services within the community, and it’s managed through an online platform that monitors exchanges. Social capital is generally underinvested because “the actor or actors who generate social capital ordinarily capture only a small part of its benefits” (Coleman 1988). However, when a disaster strikes and other resources aren’t available to people, I would argue a collective use of social capital could greatly benefit a community. It is noted, however, that different forms of social capital can be beneficial at different times. For example, if Project Lyttelton as a hub of a social network was compromised during the earthquake, that would decrease the ability of the community to reach out to their networks, but with a more individualized system like the TimeBank, perhaps more people would have the opportunity to connect. Norris et al. (2007) argue that “the happy medium may be loosely coupled organizations (to better respond to local needs) that are able to coordinate or collaborate (to facilitate access to their resources).” I’m interested in examining the types of social networks that Project Lyttelton created after the earthquake, and who benefitted from those connections.
What kinds of connections were made utilizing social capital and social networks after the 2011 earthquake? What are the boundaries of social capital, and who benefitted the most from it?
- Conduct semistructured interviews with Lyttelton Community members about their experience after the earthquake
- Perform a social network analysis of the different actors I hear about in interviews, perhaps starting with Project Lyttelton
- Utilize mental mapping to visualize where participants draw boundaries around their networks
Aldrich, Daniel P. 2011. “The Power of People: Social Capital’s Role in Recovery for the 1995 Kobe Earthquake.” Natural Hazards 56(3): 595-611.
Coleman, James S. 1988. “Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital.” The American Journal of Sociology 94: S95.
Debra J. Davidson (2010) The Applicability of the Concept of Resilience to Social Systems: Some Sources of Optimism and Nagging Doubts, Society & Natural Resources, 23:12, 1135-1149, DOI: 10.1080/08941921003652940
Norris, Fran H., Susan P. Stevens, Betty Pfefferbaum, Karen F. Wyche, and Rose L. Pfefferbaum. 2008. “Community Resilience as a Metaphor, Theory, Set of Capacities, and Strategy for Disaster Readiness,” American Journal of Community Psychology 41(1-2): 127-50.