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Does Social Media Create (or Destroy) Social Capital?

José Cuesta's picture

Like cholesterol, “social capital” comes in bad and good types.

Elusive to define, social capital consists of those bonds created by belonging to a group that instills trust, solidarity, and cooperation among members. We know that good social capital has an enormous development potential, positively influencing economic growth, democracy, cognitive development, and adoption of farming practices, among others.

In a recent study on crime in Colombia1, a colleague from American University, Erik Alda, and I show that high rates of crime help destroy social capital (victims trust less). But social capital can also reduce crime when it effectively increases the involvement of all of us in the prevention and management of crime and violent behavior and when it reduces the temptation of each individual to let others solve the problem of crime.

Stronger interpersonal trust, however, also allows an easier exchange of information and know-how among criminals, reducing their costs of committing a crime. Because bonding and trust within these groups demands the exclusion of others, a perverse social capital may lead to the kind of extreme violence and hatred seen in the Mafia, the Ku Klux Klan, maras, or genocides.

Can the Bank and CSOs Bridge the Trust Gap?

John Garrison's picture

This was a question asked by numerous participants during a consultation meeting held in Washington on February 29 on the Bank’s proposed Global Partnership for Enhanced Social Accountability (GPESA).  They noted that this lack of trust comes from a longstanding view that the Bank tends to favor governments in detriment of the broader society in many developing countries.  Others noted that the lack of trust comes from the perception that the Bank is not accessible and does not effectively engage civil society in some countries. This contrasts with the view, expressed by several participants, that the Bank has made important strides in opening up and reaching out to civil society at headquarters over the past decade and that this positive momentum should guide GPESA implementation.

Training with the Enemy: How CSOs Are Improving Bank Staff’s Ability to Engage with Civil Society

John Garrison's picture

While some staff of the World Bank and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) may have considered each other ‘enemy combatants’ on the proverbial policy battlefield some years back, today many are collaborating in joint training efforts geared to improving relations.  In a reversal of roles, a number of policy advocacy CSOs are helping to train the very same Bank staff whom they often advocated against in the past.  A good example is the participation of well known CSOs who monitor transparency issues in the extractive industries – Global Witness, Oxfam, and Revenue Watch – in a training session with staff from the Bank’s Oil, Gas, and Mining Department in April 2010.  The session was geared to improving the Bank staff’s knowledge and skills to engage civil society, and the CSOs were asked to both diagnose the nature of Bank - CSO tensions and suggest ways to improve these relations. While CSOs highlighted the difficulty they often face to get information or set up meetings with Bank staff, they also noted how the Bank’s presence can actually guarantee the safety of local CSOs.  Bank staff, in turn, shared the difficulty they have in identifying the appropriate CSOs to engage with at the country level, and expressed frustration with some of the critique the Bank receives despite their efforts to reach out.  They also welcomed greater civil society involvement in Bank-financed extractive industry projects.

The National Adaptation Programmes of Action

Arun Agrawal's picture

The National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) are the most prominent national efforts in the least developed countries (LDCs) to identify priority areas for climate change adaptation. Now that most of the NAPAs have been completed (38 out of 48), it is time to ask if they matter. 

The NAPAs were completed at a price tag of near 10 million dollars for preparation and another anticipated 2 billion for implementation. It might appear they are a golden opportunity for the developed world to show that it is serious about supporting adaptation in vulnerable countries. But the NAPA reports continue to sit on the UNFCCC’s website, available to anyone to read but with little prospects of attracting funds for implementation – or so think many who participated in the NAPA process!