Social capital is a set of shared values and resources that allow individuals to work together to effectively achieve a common purpose. It is commonly used to describe members of a community who live harmoniously and in unison. Social capital includes charity, philanthropy, and the many types of volunteering people do. Most charitable giving (81%) is done by individuals. Foundations (14%) and corporations (5%) contribute the rest.
The Road Less Traveled (RLT) subjects (a few from Kent) featured in aroundKent magazine contribute in numerous ways to the social capital of their communities. They are excellent examples of how individuals improve their communities. Dr. Patrick O'Connor - Life Long Learning Connection
This feature will examine social capital as well as a profile of it. Each community has people and organizations that contribute to a social capital profile. Kent is the sample community for this feature which can be replicated in any community.
Note: the examples featured represent only a sample of the many people and organizations who contribute social capital. There are far too many examples to include in one feature.
Considering the relentless wave of non-stop negativity noise in our society, perhaps it’s time to lift up the generosity of social capital and the people who create it. There is so much unfortunate stuff going on that we need to trumpet good stuff. There is so much good stuff being done by good people to let the junk seem like the norm. We need to overwhelm people with examples of the many great things people do to drown out all this misery we see.
The following characteristics relate to social capital which the RLT subjects demonstrate. These characteristics are also evident in the examples included in this feature. Social capital:
is contagious. People want to be part of something positive.
provides psychic income which people receive from doing things for others without expecting anything in return.
provides donors more than they give. Volunteering gives a sense of purpose along with socialization.
creates synergy which provides a greater sum – everyone wins.
Each community consists of numerous elements that make up a profile of giving and support that enable communities to thrive. These elements, among others, consist of churches, service organizations, community groups, foundations, corporations/businesses, and individuals who share time, treasure, and talent with fellow citizens. These elements comprise the social capital profile. The “all boats rise in the same tide” phrase comes to mind. Everyone benefits.
These elements can be categorized into three groups: individuals, businesses, and organizations/foundations. Here are some examples in Kent of these three social capital categories.
Each community has people who function like social capital “royalty”. A few of those in Kent are woven into the social capital examples featured here. These are the folks we always see at all service functions. They help with food drives, clothing drives, raise money for all sorts of causes and never seem to grow weary of doing for others. They are leaders in their churches, service groups, and organizations. They represent the old phrase, “if you want something done, ask a busy person.”
They receive awards from community groups, yet never talk about them. They go about their contributions almost anonymously. Generous people tend to be shy about their generosity. They are the glue that holds social capital together in a community. Many of them can be seen in the photo gallery of Matt Keffer from AroundKent.
Patrick J. O’Connor is the lead consultant for 3LC. He designs and conducts most of the services associated with 3LC. He is also associated with several consultants and trainers who specialize in other learning- related subjects. These topics can be discussed as needed. He has leveraged his many years of scholarly experience in higher education to work with organizations to improve employee performance. He has served on the faculty at Kent State University, The University of Georgia, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and New River Community College. In addition, he is an active marketing, training and leadership consultant to business and educational organizations. He is the author of two collegiate marketing textbooks and numerous professional journal articles and monographs, the You Know America book series and “Meet Me at Rays; a celebration of 75 years of Ray’s Place in Kent Ohio”. He also writes a feature column for aroundKent Magazine titled “The Road Less Traveled”. His bachelor and master degrees are from Bowling Green State University and his doctorate is from Virginia Tech. He and his wife, Susan, have four adult children. They reside in Kent, Ohio.
The solution to each problem begins with an individual who steps forward and says, ‘I can help. President George H. W. Bush and founder of Points of Light.
In 1998, Hometown Bank opened the Hometown Bank Plaza consisting of a stage and green space for all sorts of community events. This gift to the Kent community was made in honor of the 100-year anniversary of the financial institution. This was also a critical piece of the renovation of downtown Kent providing citizens with an outdoor gathering/meeting place. The social capital contribution comes from a place to gather for good times with good friends. People are social beings and need an outdoor space to congregate and celebrate with each other.
Some 75 events happen at the Hometown Plaza each year including concerts, community events, performances, weddings, (including surprise proposals), fundraisers, festivals, and a concert series. All events are open to everyone compliments of Hometown Bank. The location has also become a local gathering/meeting spot for people/groups to meet up and launch their activities. The Knights of Columbus food collections, Kent Spring Clean-up and other community groups are just a few who use the plaza as a meeting point. Marilyn Sessions (RLT vol. 14) from Hometown Bank coordinates the plaza activities.
Each community consists of many groups that conduct a wide assortment of social capital activities. Service organizations such as Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, and many others have been providing social capital for years. The Kent Junior Mothers group for example has been contributing to the betterment of Kent children since 1945. They are the group that sponsors and organizes Safety School in June. Also, foundations such as the Portage Foundation sponsor social capital activities through philanthropy and grant funding. The Portage Foundation has awarded over 220,000.00 to various youth programs, foster children support and 55,000.00 in scholarships. The Portage Foundation website
They also manage family foundations like the Madonio Animal Trust which sponsors the Dog Days of Summer festival. One of the activities at the festival is the “ Strut Your Mutt” parade sponsored by Bill and Eddye White (RLT Vol. 17). The impact of the Foundation’s support is felt today and will be into the future. Philanthropy lasts.
Each community also includes organizations (usually non-profit) that provide leadership and support for social capital. The United Way and Big Brothers/Big Sisters are good examples. Another interesting example is the Timebank. This group coordinates the sharing of time and services among members. To learn more about Timebank and to join which is easy and free, check out their Facebook page, (20+) Kent Community TimeBank | Kent OH | Facebook. Two additional groups well-known for social capital are The Chamber of Commerce and Jaycees (junior chamber of commerce). Almost all communities have both groups. Also, some communities have groups that “rally the troops” to support the downtown center of a city. Kent has such a group in Main Street Kent.
Synergy comes from the Greek word synergos which means working together, collaboration or cooperation between two or more parties. It is often described in the old saying, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts". The Adopt a Spot flower beautification program coordinated by Main Street Kent is a perfect example of social capital synergy.
Thousands of flowers are planted throughout downtown Kent each year in late May. Dozens of volunteers donate time, energy, and enthusiasm while Smithers Oasis and Davey Tree contribute to hanging baskets throughout the downtown area. Three groups; individuals, businesses, and organizations combine energy and talent for the greater good of the community. It’s a win-win-win situation. For more information, go to the Main Street Kent website. Social capital produces synergy.
To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow -Audrey Hepburn
Social capital is contagious. We all benefit from it. It’s easy to participate in the social capital of a community as there are so many people, businesses and organizations setting the pace. There’s a pretty good chance you know many of them already. Just let them know you want to get involved and lend a hand. You and they will be glad you caught the social capital bug.