This is the third post in our series looking at social capital measurement through the lens of the World Bank’s Social Capital Initiative. If you haven’t already read them, check out Measuring Social Capital is Hard! (part 1), and The Indicators of Social Capital (part 2). The final outcome of the World Bank initiative was the Social Capital Assessment Tool (SOCAT), which is presented in the book Understanding and Measuring Social Capital. In this post, we’ll share the elements of the tool and explore how they may be applicable in other contexts.
About the Tool
According to chapter 2 of Understanding and Measuring Social Capital, a key objective of the Social Capital Assessment Tool (SOCAT) is to understand how “community-, household-, and organization-level measures of social capital interact with other development indicators” in order to “assess whether social capital contributes to or erodes economic and social development.” For example, a researcher could apply the SOCAT alongside a survey measuring household income to understand the relationship between social capital and poverty in a community. This data could further be used to compare communities and assess their likelihood of experiencing success with development projects, like improved agricultural systems, that depend on social capital resources.
Requirements for the Tool
In Understanding and Measuring Social Capital, the authors describe the minimum requirements that were established as a basis for the SOCAT. Summarized, the tool needed to:
- Be sensitive to cultural variation within a unifying conceptual framework
- Assess both structural and cognitive dimensions of social capital
- Include measurement of both the density of networks and the strength of norms
- Focus on the activities that are performed collectively in a community
- Use both qualitative and quantitative methods
Components of the Tool
The following table shows the key components of the SOCAT, as designed with the above requirements in mind. The tool comes with detailed instructions, interview guides and questionnaires for each section; however, for our purposes, the higher-level summary is more than enough to draw insights.
|Instrument||Data collection method||Unit of analysis||Type of analysis|
|Community profile interview guide||Focus groups, community mapping, institutional diagram||Community, Institution||Qualitative|
|Community characteristics and services questionnaire||Key respondent interviews, focus groups||Community||Quantitative|
|Household questionnaire||Household survey||Household, Individual||Quantitative|
|Organizational profile interview guide||Interviews with leaders, focus groups with members and non-members||Institution||Qualitative|
|Organizational profile score sheet||Scoring by field team||Institution||Quantitative|
The SOCAT is designed around understanding communities, households and organizations, and it was developed primarily in the context of developing countries. Can we apply it in other contexts like assessing social capital across teams in a company? While some of the specific questions and interview techniques in the SOCAT may not be directly applicable, we think it provides valuable guidelines for every context. For example, the community profile includes questions to obtain a list of all formal and informal community institutions, which could be repurposed to analyze organizational groups and partners. Fully elaborating on these is a way of beginning to quantify and compare organizations’ access to social capital. We will expand on more specific examples in future posts.