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Community Capacity and Governance – New Approaches to Development and Evaluation

by Banyai, Cindy Lyn, PhD


Page 41

of resources that an actor can access or use through its location in a social network (Lin, 2000, p.
786). Ove Frank (2004) describes social capital as the capacity to control the connections
between people, “betweeness centrality”, or as the capacity to obtain support or information from
others, “degree centrality” or “information centrality” (p. 219). Lin, Felp and Volker, and Frank
describe social capital in similar ways, mostly focusing on actors and the resources that are
available to them through their relationships (see also Van der Gaag & Snijders, 2004, p. 200).

Coleman (1988) elaborates on the concept of social capital a bit further. He looks at three
different forms of social capital: 1) obligations and expectations that are based on trust; 2) the
information that can be obtained through social relations; and 3) the norms and sanctions that
facilitate or constraint actions (as cited in Gaarder, Munar, & Sollis, 2003, p. 8). Overall, there
are two common defining features of social capital: 1) a set of social structures that 2) facilitate
the actions within those structures (Gaarder et al., 2003, p. 8). Consistent with the structural
perspective of social capital, Paxton (1999) divides social capital into two components: a)
objective associations between individuals and b) a subjective type of tie – where the ties
between individuals must be of a particular type - reciprocal, trusting, and involving positive
emotion (p. 93). Social capital can be operationally defined as neighborhood cohesion or the
ability for community members to form strong social connections or formulate a sense of
community (Boyd et al., 2006, p. 190).

Social capital has also been introduced to facilitate business management. Cohen and Prusak
(2001) look at the utility of social capital in the business world. They define social capital as
consisting of the stock of active connation among people: the trust, mutual understanding, and
shared values and behaviors that bind the members of networks and communities and make
cooperative action possible (Cohen & Prusak, 2001, p. 4). The main focus of social capital in
business is to make an organization or any cooperative endeavor more cohesive and effective.

Social capital is produced through networks of relationships and investments in social
relations (La Due Lake & Huckfeldt, 1998, p. 571; Lin, Cook, & Burt, 2001, p. 6). These
networks convey resources, affecting the quality, quantity, novelty and availability of those
resources, confirms identity, influences behavior, and reinforces the links between actors within
it (Wellman & Frank, 2001, p. 233). Networks cannot be manufactured or engineered; only
encouraged (Cohen & Prusak, 2001, p. 23), thus social capital must develop normally within a
community. It is important to the future of the community to support the development of
effective relationships between community members and to provide activities and places for
social interaction to occur (Pavey et al., 2007, pp. 108- 109).

La Due Lake and Huckfeldt (1998) insist that social capital is not possessed by individuals
because it produced through structured patterns of social interaction, and must be judged
according to these patterns (p. 581; see also Cohen & Prusak, 2001, p. 4). It is for this reason
that social capital cannot be defined, or for that matter identified, on the basis of individual
characteristics (La Due Lake & Huckfeldt, 1998, p. 581). Social capital works in instrumental
and expressive actions not accounted for by forms of person capital, such as economic or human
capital, because embedded resources in social networks enhance the outcomes of actions since
they provide a) information, b) influence, c) social credentials, and d) reinforcement of identity
and recognition (Lin et al., 2001, pp. 6-7).

Social capital also involves the concepts of bonding and bridging capital in the formation of
trust, cooperation, and long-term relationships among community members and manifests itself
in terms of social support, shared vision and economic incentives for mutual interests. As
described by Putnam (1993), bonding capital is anything in the community that brings

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acquaintances in the community closer together, and bridging capital is anything may bring
members of the community who ordinarily wouldn’t know each other closer together (also cited
in Gittell & Vidal, 1998, p. 19). Some examples of bonding capital include basic social activities
among friends, neighbors, and relatives like sharing a meal or helping one another. Bonding
capital gives communities a sense of identity and common purpose (Zacharakis & Flora, 2005, p.
292). Bridging capital includes all of the activities that bring otherwise perfect strangers
together. It connects diverse groups and builds links outside of a community (Zacharakis &
Flora, 2005, p. 292). These may include social clubs and issue-based local organizations and
other forms of broad social networking. Bridging capital also works to balance bonding capital
from becoming too narrow or precluding access to information and material resources that might
otherwise be useful to the community (Zacharakis & Flora, 2005, p. 292).

Granovetter has also described similar constructs, with strong ties (like kinships or intimate
friendships) being equated to bonding capital and weak ties (like acquaintances and shared
membership in secondary associations) being similar to bridging capital (as cited in Putnam,
1993, p. 175; see also Paxton, 1999, p. 100). Putnam (1993) goes on to say that weak ties, or
bridging capital, is more important than strong ties, or bonding capital, in promoting collective
action and community cohesion (p. 175; Uslaner & Dekker, 2001, p. 183). Furthermore, in
general, it is the ties between individual actors in a network that is more important than the
aggregate capital of the network (Wellman & Frank, 2001, p. 258).

Social integration is a concept that is related to social capital. Ideal social integration
includes the capability for collective action, the sharing of traditions and customs,
interdependence based on reciprocity, and continuous interaction (Figueira-McDonough, 2001,
p. 18). Productive social exchange makes the difference between mere interaction and solidarity
(Figueira-McDonough, 2001, p. 19) within a community. Social capital, a result of social
integration and exchange, is important to a community in order for it to be seen as a cohesive
unit, avoid anarchy, and be able to pursue collective activities (Figueira-McDonough, 2001, p.
17).

Social capital is the ‘glue’ that brings communities together and allows them to perform
functions and overcome adversity. The basic assertion of social capital is that those with more
social capital are better able to reach their goals or defend their interests (Felp & Volker, 2004, p.
5). As with other forms of capital, actors with social capital have a greater propensity to
accumulate more (Putnam, 1993, p. 169). Unlike economic capital, using social capital increases
its abundance without risk instead of depleting it (Putnam, 1993, p. 169). Conversely, the
various forms of social capital diminish if they are not used in a timely fashion (Putnam, 1993, p.
170). For these reasons, cycles of social capital creation and destruction should be expected
(Putnam, 1993, p. 170).

Communities with high levels of social capital are more likely to have high levels of
voluntarism, more effective local government, lower levels of crime, more socially responsible
businesses, more successful businesses, and generally positive economic outcomes (Putnam,
1993), including greater economic equality and employment stability (Besser et al., 2008, p.
582). Social capital can be used to mobilize people for the collective good and is an important
resource for community improvement (Besser et al., 2008, p. 582). This is because community
actions become more sophisticated through policy interventions and projects that involve the
community (Saegert, 2005; Mendis-Millard & Reed, 2007; Miyoshi & Stenning, 2008

Social capital is a key component of community development because it leads to ties between
people that lead to greater trust and cooperation, as well as networking opportunities, and better

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access to resources (Felp & Volker, 2004; Gittell & Vidal, 1998; Uslaner & Dekker, 2001;
Zacharakis & Flora, 2005, p. 292). Furthermore, high amounts of social capital can encourage
retention of human resources, facilitate change, and promote solidarity (Cohen & Prusak, 2001,
p. 19). Spontaneous cooperation is easier in a community that has substantial amounts of social
capital (Putnam, 1993, p. 167). Cooperation is important in terms of obtaining and pooling
resources, as well as implementing a productive local policy with widespread benefits.

Generalized reciprocity is the mechanism through which social capital functions (Putnam,
1993, p. 172). The idea of generalized reciprocity is that a service is repaid, when necessary, at
an unspecified time in the future and often times by a different kind of service (Felp & Volker,
2004, pp. 5-6). The norm of generalized reciprocity is important in a community context
because it restrains opportunism among members and resolves problems of collective action,
solving for the problem of self-interest versus solidarity (Putnam, 1993, p. 172). This can
contemporarily been seen in the concept of ‘paying it forward.’ The productive mechanism of
social capital is that it provides opportunities for people to use the assets at their disposaltypically
their human resources, sometimes their financial capital, information or understanding
of particular situations, obligations from other relationships, or pressure to conform to and
internalize norms - to gain access to resources they do not have access to themselves (Felp &
Volker, 2004, p. 15).

Trust is highly associated with generalized reciprocity (Paxton, 1999, p. 98). In the absence
of trust, there would be no belief that those in power will follow the “rules of the game” leaving
other actors unwilling to relinquish any power that they might have (Paxton, 1999, p. 102).
Authenticity and genuiness is necessary to build trust and for the success of social capital (Cohen
& Prusak, 2001, p. 14). According to Cohen and Prusak (2001), trust is the function of a
relationship and when people are trusted they tend to be trustworthy (p. 31). Starting with a base
of trust encourages more trust (Cohen & Prusak, 2001, p. 49). Trust is eroded in communities
that are loosely connected and anonymous (Cohen & Prusak, 2001, p. 33).

Trust is both a necessary component of social capital, as well as a result of it (Uslaner &
Dekker, 2001, p. 179). Trust grows from and contributes to transparency, and expands from
knowledge sharing and participation (Cohen & Prusak, 2001, pp. 41, 46). It is problematic to
determine how much trust is created through membership in groups, namely because people with
a trusting nature are more likely to join groups (Uslaner & Dekker, 2001, p. 181), thus skewing
and amplifying the propensity of trust generated. This can create some difficulty in determining
the starting pointing for analyzing trust and social capital or creating policy to enhance it.

When communities are comprised of many individuals that have suitable amounts of social
capital that community is better able to leverage collective action to solve the problems that they
face leaving the community as whole better, both in terms of individuals and the group, with
higher potentials for economic gain (Gittell & Vidal, 1998, p. 15; Paxton, 1999, p. 93; Wellman
& Frank, 2001, p. 259). Having access to social capital allows individuals and communities to
achieve goals that otherwise would not be possible (Felp & Volker, 2004, p. 5). This is because
the norms of trust and reciprocity inherent in social capital facilitates mutually beneficial
cooperation in a community, which reduces vulnerability and increased opportunities (Gaarder et
al., 2003, p. 12).

Furthermore, the social capital possessed by a group may not be immediately apparent and
could be latent and harnessed as a potential energy (Paxton, 1999, p. 93). The social capital in a
community is not limited to the aggregate of the social capital of the individuals in the
community; it is also affected by the social capital of the institutions and organizations at work in

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the community. The more collaboration there is of institutions on similar levels the greater the
amount of social capital in the community (Gaarder et al., 2003, p.12; Putnam, 1993).

Networks are more than ad hoc strands of acquaintances. They require maintenance to be
viable, needing investments of time, energy and emotion, as well as propensity for reciprocity
(Cohen & Prusak, 2001, p. 58). Different investments in social capital lead to different results.
Short-term investments in social capital lead to fewer returns. Short-term investments in social
capital occur most frequently when the actors have either complete uncertainty or complete
certainty about the future of their relationship or when they do not know their future role in the
relationship (Riedl & Van Winden, 2004, p. 100). On the other hand, when there is a benefit to
be gained from the relationship longer-term investments are made and those making the
investments can expect to reap the benefits when they need it (Riedl & Van Winden, 2004, p.
100).

There are four dimensions of networks: 1) knowledge - how well people know one another;
2) access to knowledge; 3) engagement - actively listening to an inquiry and working with
people and problems to provide useful knowledge and advice and a sense of connection; and 4)
safety - individual reliability (Cohen & Prusak, 2001, p. 76). Networks can be categorized in
two ways: horizontal – where members are of relatively equal status and power; or vertical –
where members are unequal engaging in relationships that are hierarchical and dependent
(Putnam, 1993, p. 173). Networks of civic engagement, comprised of horizontal interactions, are
an important for of social capital with dense networks providing mutual benefits for its members
(Putnam, 1993, p. 173). Robust networks of civic engagement a) encourage greater
participation, b) develop norms of reciprocity, c) facilitate communication, d) improve the flow
of information particularly regarding the trustworthiness of particular actors, and e) demonstrate
successful past collaboration (Putnam, 1993, pp. 173-174); thus demonstrating the value of
developing horizontal networks. Vertical networks, especially linkages to external
organizations, can help to achieve community goals (Miller, 1992, p. 38). Disadvantaged groups
can particularly benefit from vertical networks with resource rich members (Lin, 2000, p. 788).

The volume of social capital possessed by a given agent depends on the network of
connections that agent can mobilize and the volume of other capitals possessed by the others
members in that network (Bourdieu, 2002, p. 286). Determining the amount of social capital in a
given community or possessed by an individual is extremely difficult because there is a gap
between the concept of social capital and its measurement (Paxton, 1999, pp. 89-90). Various
efforts have been made to try to quantify social capital, with some success (see Besser, Recker,
& Agnitsh, 2008; Felp & Volker, 2004; Frank, 2004; La Due Lake & Huckfeldt, 1998;
Zacharakis & Flora, 2005), but generally pales in usefulness to a general qualitative
understanding of a specific circumstance and context in relation to social capital.

Markets can interact with the social capital in a community, positively or negatively affecting
that social capital, thus shaping the direction of development and policy (Getz, 2008, p. 555).
Christy Getz (2008) through her review of case studies in Mexico, found that the quantity and
quality of social capital is connected to a) the history of state-sponsored or market agriculture, b)
the nature of local institutions, and c) the access to and availability of natural resources, namely
land and water, which are both intricately connected to market access options (p. 555). Getz’s
revelations demonstrate interconnectedness of the various sectors within a community, i.e.
governance and markets, and their relationship to social capital.

High levels of social capital can help a community cope with the issues that they face
together. Shocks, sudden events that significantly challenge the status quo where the bulk of the

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community is affected, can include the loss of a major employer, the opening of a new prison,
natural disasters, and the boom and bust of industrial development (Besser et al., 2008, p. 580).
These challenges can be fast moving or slow motion shocks that manifest over a long time
(Besser et al., 2008, p. 580). Community shocks are followed by increases in social capital and
quality of life (Besser et al., 2008, p. 580). This is because community members who face
hardship together may be encouraged to create new or strengthen their relationships as they work
to overcome the crisis (Besser et al., 2008, p. 582).

However, corrosive community shocks, crises borne only by certain groups within a
community, result in a decline in social capital and quality of life (Besser et al., 2008, p. 580).
The detrimental impact can be seen as communities find it harder to gather the necessary
resources to cope with the crisis and launch initiatives for community improvement (Besser et
al., 2008, p. 582). Several small shocks have a similar effect on a community as one large shock
(Besser et al., 2008, p. 601). The cumulative effects of shocks, although not an exact equation,
can be balanced out. The detrimental affects of shocks can be balanced out with a series of small
shocks that generate positive effects (Besser et al., 2008, p. 602).

Social capital has its drawbacks. High levels of social capital, particular bonding social
capital, can lead to exclusivity (Cohen & Prusak, 2001, p. 14; Uslaner & Dekker, 2001, p. 180),
restrictions on individual freedom, downward leveling pressures, and power inequalities
resulting from asymmetrical patron-client type relationships (Getz, 2008, p. 560). Trust that is
formed via personal networks may enhance malfeasance and promote disorder resulting from
force and fraud (Granovetter, 2002, p. 77-78).

Unfortunately, both vertical and horizontal networks can have some very detrimental effects.
Vertical networks do not sustain social trust and cooperation, their flows of information are often
less reliable than horizontal flows, and they can develop asymmetrical exchanges and obligations
(Putnam, 1993, p. 174) with those in lower positions often unduly burdened. On the other hand,
horizontal networks that are formed in communities, groups, or networks that are isolated,
parochial, or have malice toward the collective interest (e.g. drug cartels and corruption rackets)
can hinder socioeconomic development (Zacharakis & Flora, 2005, p. 292).

Members of a social group have a tendency to form networks with other members from their
group (Lin, 2000, p. 787; Uslaner & Dekker, 2001, p. 180), thereby forming horizontal networks
that limit the types of resources that can be accessed. This is because people affiliate with
resource-poor groups will form networks with other, equally poor people, thus restricting the
variety of information and influence that they share (Lin, 2000, p. 787). Females and people
with lower socioeconomic status most notably find themselves with this conundrum (Lin, 2000,
pp. 788-789).

Within poor communities that have high levels of social capital, there is a propensity for tight
knit networks that act as a deterrent to improvement and growth, which may discourage those
wishing to break those ties and change their lives (Gaarder et al., 2003, p. 11; Lin, 2000, p. 789).
Disadvantaged actors benefit from networking with those outside of their respective groups,
particularly those with greater access to resources; however, this may be done at the cost of their
identity and good relations with their peers (Lin, 2000, p. 791). Lin’s view on horizontal vertical
networks stands in contrast to Putnam’s view. Overall, there are costs and benefits to both types
of networks that need to be considered in any policy formulation that seeks to promote social
capital.

Furthermore, the assets that are typically obtainable through the networks formed by people
in poverty are not sufficient to move them out of poverty (Gaarder et al., 2003, p. 11; Lin 2000,

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p. 793). Woolcock (1998) suggests that a community’s institutions, and for that matter its
members, should have horizontal and vertical external, synergistic networks and this can be
facilitated by a dynamic and cooperative relationship between top-down resources and bottomup
capacity building, which will create a range of people and materials capable of coping with
community issues and utilizing opportunities (as cited in Getz, 2008, p. 559; see also Millar &
Kirkpatrick, 2005, p. 20).

Social capital has a significant relationship with equality. Where there are lower levels of
inequality there are higher levels of positive social capital, and conversely, where there are
higher levels of positive social capital there are lower levels of inequality (Getz, 2008, p. 576).
Additionally, it should not be assumed that high levels of social capital within one group in a
community will extend to high levels of social capital throughout the community (Paxton, 1999,
p. 96).

Once an understanding of the value of social capital is reached, one begins to wonder how it
can be created or amplified to improve people’s lives. There would be substantial benefits from
a policy increasing social capital, if there is something that a government, or any other entity,
could do to increase it (Paldam & Svendsen, 2004, p. 250). While there are ways to foster the
development of social capital often the most effective ways are indirect or brought about
circumstantially. All social capital is not the result of conscious investment; some of it is
inherited or a result of belonging to particular group (Felp & Volker, 2004, p. 12). Social capital
can also be created through social interactions that have other goals (Felp & Volker, 2004, p. 12;
Putnam, 1993, p. 170), such as recreational sporting activities, collective projects, or social
groups and activities. This is because personal interaction fortifies trust between actors that is
both inexpensive and reliable (Putnam, 1993, p. 172). Furthermore, third-party interventions to
increase social capital often fail due to the voluntary nature of social capital (Paldam &
Svendsen, 2004, p. 250).

Coleman (1988) added to the discussion on social capital by recognizing it as a public good
(as cited in Gaarder et al., 2003, p. 8; see also Putnam, 1993, p. 170), sounding the call for its
cultivation and protection in governance systems and development initiatives. In order to fully
understand the dynamics and benefits of social capital there needs to be more research on the
topic in terms of theory and research, as well as its utilization, transference and measurement
(Felp & Volker, 2004, p. 18; Paldam & Svendsen, 2004, p. 250; Paxton, 1999, p. 123; Uslaner &
Dekker, 2001, p. 179).

4. Community Capacity

The previous sections of this chapter discussed the importance of development, focusing on
community, and the usefulness of social capital. The concept of community capacity pulls all of
these important factors together under one framework that can direct research and policy.
Although community capacity is not a perfect theory for broad stroke application, it is the most
comprehensive and holistic concept and approach in the area of community development to date.
However, it should be noted that community capacity has been used in a multitude of
circumstances and has often been accused of being co-opted by government officials or donors to
justify their initiatives, so it is not without controversy. This section will introduce the concept
of community capacity and provide support for its use, as well as provide some areas in which it
can be improved.

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Community capacity is a standalone concept; however, it is useful to first have a basic
understanding of its title components. One whole section of this chapter was dedicated to
furthering the understanding of community, and the concept of community will be expanded
upon in a later chapter. However, for the sake of clarification in regards to the discussion on
community capacity, it is assumed that community is comprised of both a relational and spatial
quality between actors.

The next component of the term, capacity, needs some explanation as well. Capacity, as
defined by the UNDP, is the ability of individuals, institutions, and societies to perform
functions, solve problems, and set and achieve objectives in a sustainable manner (Balassanian,
2006, p. 4). Beth Honadle (1981) offers an earlier definition of capacity. She poses the
definitional characteristics of capacity as the ability to: a) anticipate and influence change; b)
make informed, intelligent decisions about policy; c) develop programs to implement policy; d)
attract and absorb resources; e) manage resources; and f) evaluate current activities to guide
future actions (Honadle, 1981, p. 577). Honadle’s definition of capacity is more specific than the
UNDP’s, but both are related to the concept of community capacity. It should be noted that an
understanding of capacity that over-stresses management capabilities or technical abilities can be
restrictive and may draw attention away from other aspects of community life that are equally
important, which can lead to management and policy problems (Gorgan, 1981, p. 650).

Gittell and Vidal (1998) define capacity as the “potential for community residents to act on
collective commitments, interests, and objectives (p. 25).” Gittell and Vidal (1998) go on to
include the capacity of social agents of the community, individuals (leadership and technological
and organization skills), internal organizational capacity (local NGOs, businesses and projects),
and network capacity (also known as bridging capital) (p. 25). The capacity of social agents
plays a role in community capacity because individuals, organizations, and networks are integral
parts of a community.

Capacity by itself has little relevance unless it is discussed in the context of specific abilities.
For instance, Gibson and Woolcock (2008) describe the “capacity to engage,” which consists of
both “collective capacity” and “deliberative capacity” in relation to empowerment and civic
engagement (p. 153). What really is being discussed is the ability of the group to think and work
together, and the depth of these abilities are described as their “capacity to engage.” Similarly,
community capacity is a framework to describe various important aspects of a community that in
combination build a picture of the ability of the community to act on their own accordance.

Capacity and capability are often used interchangeably, but again are relevant only in
context. Focusing on developing human capabilities is not an entirely new concept in
development. In fact, Japan began to focus on developing human capabilities in the Meiji era
(1868-1911) (Sen, 1999, p. 20). Currently there is a renaissance on the importance of fortifying
the capabilities of people.

In contemporary discussions on development, there has been an increased emphasis on
taking a capacity-oriented approach (McKnight & Kretzmann, 1996). This approach recognizes
that community development only takes place when local people are committed to investing
themselves and their resources to development and that waiting for and relying on external
“saviors” is futile (McKnight & Kretzmann, 1996).

The concept of community capacity has evolved from work on community stability,
community well-being; quality of life, capabilities, and asset-based development (Kretzman &
McKnight, 1993, p. 1; Mendis-Millard & Reed 2007, p. 544), community-based development
(Robinson, 1997; Rubin, 1993), community-based resource management (Fellizar et al., 1994;

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Mendis-Millard & Reed, 2007), developmental contextualism (Bogenschneider, 1996), and
community building (Gariba, 1998; Saegert, 2005). Community capacity also builds on the
recognized importance of social capital and networks within a community in relation to
development (Erni, 2006, p. 315; Frank, 2007, p. 219; Lin et al., 2001, p. 6; Mendis-Millard &
Reed 2007, p. 544; Putnam, 1993, p. 173; Sachs, 2005, p. 242; Saegert, 2005, p. 5). One of the
main conceptual drivers behind community capacity is that of identifying and accessing the
assets and capabilities of a community, rather than focusing on its detriments (asset-bassed
development) (Kretzman & McKnight, 1993, p. 1; Mendis-Millard & Reed 2007, p. 544).

Community capacity is an outcome of development and is likely to lead to economic
development (McGuire et al., 1994, p. 427). Not only is community capacity an outcome of any
development policy, but it can also contribute to the development process (Mendis-Millard &
Reed, 2007, p. 545). This establishes the existence of a cycle of community capacity, and like
social capital, the more you have, the more you can accumulate. Community capacity is
necessary for the creation of policy and development initiatives that will be successful through
participation (Dobbs & Moore, 2002, p. 162). Through combining the concepts of capabilities
and social capital, community capacity becomes a useful way of framing a discussion on
community development and the policy making process.

The basic idea of community capacity is that it is the ability of a community to utilize the
assets at their disposal to achieve community outcomes. Predecessors to current indices and
frameworks of community capacity include the AGIL framework from Parsons (1951, as cited in
Figueira-McDonough, 2001, p. 11). Looking at communities as systems, Parsons proffered four
analytical functions of an independent social system: adaption (A) - the ability to generate
resources for survival; goal attainment (G) - is the ability to make binding decisions for the social
unit; integration (I) - the network that permitted the distribution of basic services; and latent
pattern maintenance and management (L) - the glue that held individuals together (i.e. social
capital) (Figueira-McDonough, 2001, p. 11). Its similarities to community capacity can be seen
in its emphasis on resources, goals, networks, and social capital.

A later adaptation and elaboration on the concept of community capacity can be seen in
Michael McGuire, Barry Rubin, Robert Agranoff, and Craig Richards’s (1994) description of
community capacity and development of community capacity indicators. McGuire and
colleagues (1994) conceptualize community capacity in terms of a) community participation, b)
community structure, and c) development instruments (p. 427). Community participation deals
with community input and the strength of local political institutions and has indicators
encompassing the acceptance of change/controversy/conflict, the acceptance of community
strengths and weaknesses, and effective mechanisms for direct community participation and
input (McGuire et al., 1994, p. 427). Community structure describes governmental capacity and
networks, as well as participation in development activities and has indicators such as dispersed
leadership roles, vertical linkages, horizontal linkages, shared vision or direction, projectoriented
involvement, and lead agencies (McGuire et al., 1994, p. 427). Development
instruments measure the degree to which appropriate and effective policy tools are used by the
community and is indicated by community spirit activities, infrastructure, appropriate
development focus, major business development (McGuire et al., 1994, p. 427). The concept
and indicators laid out by McGuire and colleagues (1994) provide the groundwork for modern
discussions on community capacity.

Using components similar to community capacity as described by McGuire and colleagues
(1994), Sulley Gariba (1998) designed the Village Development Capacity index with the main

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idea that each community has a unique combination of social, political, economic, and cultural
characteristics that determine its status and potential (p. 72). The index provides an
understanding of the community’s characteristics to allow social agents to a) recognize the
community’s strengths, b) plan and implement policy, c) monitor project effects, d) evaluate the
impacts of policy and the change in the capacity of community, and e) identify new factors
relating to community capacity and development (Gariba, 1998, p. 72). The parameters of this
index are similar to community capacity, but without a specific guiding concept. The benefits of
gaining an in-depth understanding of a community’s situation, capability, and functions help
with current and future policy making, and will be further fortified if there is a coherent
conceptual framework for policy makers and practitioners to refer to, rather than a series of ad
hoc indices and tools.

To build their community capacity index for primary health care service delivery, Robert
Bush, Jo Dower, and Allyson Mutch (2002) define community capacity as a collection of
characteristics and resources which, when combined, improve the ability of a community to
recognize, evaluate, and address key problems (p. 1). They examine four domains through their
index: 1) network partnerships; 2) knowledge transfer; 3) problem solving; and 4) infrastructure
(investment in the development of policy, social capital, human capital, and financial capital)
(Bush et al., 2002, p. 1). The definition offered by Bush and colleagues encounters the same
problem as Gariba’s index; in as such that it offers components and parameters without a strong
conceptual framework.

Susan Saegert (2005) looks at civic capacity, which shares many of the same qualities as
community capacity. Saegert (2005) defines civic capacity as a) the ability to engage with the
public domain, b) the capacity to influence social agenda, c) the capacity to access public and
private sector resources, and d) the capacity to influence the physical and social environment (p.
5). By describing this concept as civic capacity, it can be related to any spatial level. However,
the understanding of community at various spatial levels eliminates this advantage. Additionally,
through the expansion of the concept of community to include citizens, institutions,
organizations, and government, merely looking at the civic side of capacity can be too
restricting. Saegert (2005) goes on to define community civic capacity as the social integration
of community residents into the larger society and the accumulation of power, influence, and
resources (p. 11). This relates to how well the community functions as a unit and is more highly
related to the concept of community capacity.

Robert Chaskin, Prudence Brown, Sudhir Venkatesh, and Avis Vidal in their 2001 book,
Building Community Capacity, offer their definition of community capacity as the interaction of
human capital, organizational resources, and social capital existing within a given community
that can be leveraged to solve collective problems and improve or maintain the well-being of that
community (p. 7). It may operate through informal social processes and/or organized efforts by
individuals, organizations, and social networks that exist among them and between them and the
larger system of which the community is a part (Chaskin et al., 2001, p. 7). Through identifying
the characteristics of community capacity and devising strategies to enhance it, communities can
better reach their potential, leaders and residents can be better informed, and ownership of the
local situation can emerge to facilitate further development (Chaskin et al., 2001, p . 8).

The Chaskin and colleagues (2001) definition presents a comprehensive definition of
community capacity that is broken into easily identifiable areas, which is conducive for further
research. In addition to having distinct areas in the definition that can be further researched or
analyzed, there is some conceptual direction in the definition in terms of improving or

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maintaining the well-being of the community. The Chaskin Framework, herein after referred to,
has been accepted in this work as the best definition of community capacity and has been
adopted as the main conceptual basis of this study.

Figure 2 is a visual representation of the Chaskin Framework. The chart demonstrates that
the factors of community capacity (1) within a community are enacted through the levels of
social agency (2) to perform certain actions (3) of and for the community. The strategies (4) that
can be utilized by community governance actors or external development policy makers must
work through the levels of social agency (3) to facilitate or promote the functions of the
community or to minimize detrimental conditioning influences (5). The conditioning influences
(5) on the community are directly related to the amount and quality of community capacity
characteristics (1) that a community posses. Other outcomes (6) can be achieved through the
fortification of the assets (1), agents (2), and actions (3) process, but a change in the other
outcomes (6) may also have an affect on the conditioning influences (5) of the community
(Chaskin et al., 2001, p. 13).

The specific components of Figure 2 are discussed in the following subsections. First, the (1)
characteristics of community capacity will be outlined, followed by the (2) levels of social
agency, and the (3) community functions and (6) other outcomes. Lastly, the (5) conditioning
influences will be discussed. The (4) community capacity building strategies will be discussed
and elaborated on in the next section. The last subsection of this section on community capacity
will go over some of the advantages of considering community capacity in development and
policy making.

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