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The Social Action Research Project (SARP) was a 3 -year programme to test the hypothesis that it is possible to improve health by growing social capital. It was funded by the Health Development Agency and local partners in the two test sites, Salford and Nottingham.

Social Capital

The idea of 'social capital' arose from the recognition that the capacity to 'get things done' depends on more than the application of 'labour' and 'capital' in the traditional economic senses. One approach to defining social capital is to describe it as whatever is present in a community when this capacity to 'get things done' is present:

'Social capital is a process involving people and organisations working
collaboratively in an atmosphere of trust that leads to accomplishing a goal of
mutual social benefit' (John Kretzman, 1999)

The original definition does not make reference in this way to the consequences of social capital but describes it as a measure of the quantity and quality of the relationships or connections between people and between organisations. The quality of a relationship here is understood to be a measure of the resources that each can expect to claim from the other as a result of the relationship:

'Social capital (is)... the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are
linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalised
relationships of mutual acquaintance or recognition' (Bourdieu, 1985)

SARP identified four elements of Social Capital:

  • Sense of local identity
  • Levels of reciprocity (including help, support & readiness to challenge inappropriate behaviour)
  • Levels of trust and respect (for self and others)
  • Perceived levels of power over things that influence one's life.
  • Salford SARP

    Salford chose to make three interventions:

  • The appointment of four Local Action Co-ordinators, supported by a project manager
  • The adoption of a whole system approach, supported by the Urban Partnerships Group
  • Connecting through computers
  • A Whole System approach to growing social capital

    The Urban Partnerships Group supported each of the four Local Action Co-ordinators to identify local issues and to find ways of engaging with the range of people and organisations concerned with that issue.

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