Social Capital and its Role in Heifer's Work

By Heifer International

July 1, 2014

Social Capital and its Role in Heifer's Work

Throughout the month of July, we will explore how Heifer's work affects social capital in the communities in which we have programming. But what exactly do we mean by that? 

Social capital is defined by the World Bank as "institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society's social interactions. Increasing evidence shows that social cohesion is critical for societies to prosper economically and for development to be sustainable. Social capital is not just the sum of the institutions which underpin a society – it is the glue that holds them together."

Heifer's work around the world is values-based and rooted in the 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development. That means that before the practical trainings in Improved Animal Management and other teachings are given, our farmers learn what it means to have accountability to others in the community; that sharing and caring will go far in transforming the lives of their neighbors as well as their own; and when women and men share in decision making real, lasting change can occur.

This is the groundwork for social capital. We know that these values go far in strengthening communities; they help connects people with other diverse groups and show them how similar they are, not how different. We've seen it work.

Our CEO, Pierre Ferrari, explained in an earlier post how Heifer measures social capital, but it can be seen and felt in any established project from Bangladesh to Zambia. Where women were once ostracized, they are now participating in community organizations, even as elected leaders. More and more farmers are accessing services once deemed impossible. Girls are attending school, and farmers are preserving the environment.

Even more evidence of increasing social capital is our farmers' fulfillment to pass on the gift to others in need—wanting others to benefit as they have. As Pierre says, "Heifer has always been about working together and incorporating the values of a community. This is what has made us successful in the past and what will allow us to help even more families."

Check the World Ark blog all month to read stories about how Heifer positively affects social capital.