Converting Social Capital to an Economic Resource

No conversion of social capital into financial capital is valid unless the value of social capital increases in the process.  This is common sense from a practical perspective.  If your connections, good will, hope and trust diminish, you lose the core of future productivity.  The energy becomes negative and not only hinders any hope of financial gain, but decreases what is needed for growth.

On a deeper level, however, if relationships are harmed in the process of converting social assets into financial support for programs, staff or facilities, you have just betrayed yourself as an organization.  The heart, the core purpose and life energy of an organization established to good must first do good for it’s own members.  To offend, divide or harm members in our attempt to do good is to violate the basis of what we claim to stand for.

Individuals may certainly disagree and even choose to come and go based on the changing direction of organizational goals.  This is different than seeking financial gain at the expense of social capital that has been built up over a long period of time.   Whenever social capital is redeemed to make a step forward, relationships should be strengthened at the same time, increasing the value of relationships used for advancement.

An example of increasing social capital at the same time it is used to accomplish a goal or it is converted into material benefits is when the group can feel a corporate pride in what is being accomplished  through the work, expectations, compromises made in the conversion.  Another gain in social assets can be seen when the visible result of using relationships to accomplish something of lasting value attracts new membership or deepens the commitment of current members.  Skills developed in converting social capital into tangible assets without harming mutually beneficial connections becomes an additional value to the organization in the form of new skills, experience and knowledge.

The joy of spending time together, trustworthiness that is maintained, willingness to sacrifice for hope of future benefits, ability to manage conflict, keeping primary purposes and values in focus, collaboration, use of individual gifts and making space for differences are essential to the health of any organization.  To be diverted away from these benefits in order to meet any fundraising goal or employ a new strategy is an unacceptable risk.

The nature of our social and spiritual life together will change.  Different priorities will arise.  New learning and goals will arise.  New methods of accomplishing the purpose we came together are necessary.  Our relationships will be tested.  But know that social capital is not to be squandered on an ambition that reduces the care and concern everyone feels for the organization, it’s work, and each other.

Be sure a careful accounting is being made with every change or challenge to the equilibrium of your group.  Never place such value on what can be seen or counted in monetary terms that securing it places your reason for existing at a risk that is too great.

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