Espacios. Vol. 37 (Nº 14) Año 2016. Pág. 21

The Inverted Spiral: How Social Capital Diverges from Micro to Macro Levels

A espiral invertida: Como o Capital Social diverge de Micro para o Macro níveis

Janaina MACKE 1; Alyne SEHNEM 2

Recibido: 05/02/16 • Aprobado: 24/03/2016


1. Introduction

2. Social Capital Measurement: a Brief Review about the Concept

3. A New Instrument for Social Capital Measurement in Developing Countries: Methodological Aspects

4. Micro-level of analysis results and discussion

5. Meso-level of analysis: results and discussion

6. Macro-level of analysis: results and discussion

7. Final Considerations




The Brazilian experience of regionalization, started in the western side of the state of Santa Catarina (southern Brazil), was based on the Italian model. In order to access this experience, we ran a survey with 499 residents from the 18 cities belonging to the region. The main results show that the different types of social capital (bonding, bridging and linking) appear in key elements and that there is a tendency of a decreasing in social capital from a micro to a macro viewpoint.
Key words: social capital; communities; survey; Brazil.


A experiência brasileira de regionalização teve seu início no oeste do Estado de Santa Catarina (Sul do Brasil) e foi baseado no modelo italiano. Para acessar essa experiência, foi realizada uma pesquisa com 499 residentes dos 18 municípios pertencentes à região. Os principais resultados mostram que os diferentes tipos de capital social (bonding, bridging e linking) aparecem em elementos-chave da teoria social e que há uma tendência de diminuição do capital social, a partir do nível micro para o nível macro de análise.
Palavras-chave: capital social; comunidades; survey; Brasil.

1. Introduction

The concept of social capital related to the associative life into communities and cities began to gain importance in the 1990s with the work of Robert Putnam, "Making Democracy Work: civic traditions in modern Italy". In this work, Putnam and colleagues (1993) conceptualised social capital as a characteristic of social organization, encompassing elements as trust, norms and networks that can improve the efficiency of the society by facilitating coordinated actions.

In this work, Putnam and his colleagues relate the results of a twenty years study about the Italian society, in which the initial topic was to understand the differences of the development of north and south of Italy. The authors concluded that the disparities between institutional performance and development of the regions are a result of a major presence of social capital. These conclusions had an impact in the scientific community and were corroborated by other studies (Fukuyama 1995; 1999; Grootaert 1998; Onyx and Bullen 2000).

This research was initially inspired by the work of Putnam et al. (1993). The Brazilian experience of regionalization, started in the western side of the state of Santa Catarina (southern Brazil), was based on the Italian model. Brazilian leaders were sent to in loco observations, in order to understand the experience of regional development implemented in the north of that country. These leaders realized that in the Bologna region the economic and social conditions resembled the western of Santa Catarina, representing the possibility of reproducing the Italian model. The Nomisma Research Institute (from Italy) was chosen to conduct a study of the potential for regional development in that Brazilian case (FECAM 2014). The findings of the study revealed two problems in the Santa Catarina region: the individualistic culture, which appears in the form of isolated businesses and government actions, and the power distance among people and institutions. It was evident the need to integrate the public sector with the civil society (Birkner 2006; 2008).

Another inspiration for this work, especially for the survey instrument, was found in the researches of Monastério (2002; 2003), Bandeira (1994) and Verschoore Filho (2000). In his research Monastério (2002; 2003) related social capital with economic indicators, in order to explain the unequal development of micro regions of Rio Grande do Sul, a neighbour state of Santa Catarina.

The social capital, even as established in the academy, is a quite broad concept with a plurality of uses. This fact raises doubts regarding the methodology for its measurement (Araújo 2003). In this sense, it is relevant to access some key aspects, such as its meaning, the possibilities for its measurement and the dependence associated with the context (Baquero 2003).

The social capital can be understood as a set of informal norms and values, common to the members of a specific group, which allows the cooperation among them. Some reasons that contribute for the interest in social capital are: the value of the social relations in social and economic discussions, the transformation of the society and the role of the State, the importance of network relations to improve economic performances and the need of concepts to understand the complexity of human beings (Donadello 2011; Macke et al. 2012).

The studies on social capital have used different approaches. However, most studies do not focus on the social capital itself, but rather on its outcomes. This shows that there is a lack of studies to propose the development of new ways to measure social capital.

The social capital approach has much to contribute to the understanding of the potential for social development. Social capital can set a starting point for planning successful public policies at regional level (Newman, Cherney, Head 2015). Likewise, it can evidence which policies should be avoided at the risk of causing an unwanted effect. Thus, social capital can also point out the risks of certain policies that contribute to its destruction and to the consequent deterioration of the living conditions of citizens (Monastério, 2002).

This paper is an effort to extend the idea about social capital measurement in all its ambiguity, by considering the three types through which it can appear: the bonding (present into the groups), the bridging (existing among different groups) and the linking social capital (relations with high distance of power). In this way we seek to build a multifaceted view on the subject that does not need to put all the elements in the same black box.

The objectives of this study are: (1) to build an instrument to measure social capital that allows us to analyse the micro, meso and macro-levels, and (2) to identify the elements that make up the three different types of social capital: bonding, bridging and linking.

The paper is structured as follows: after a literature review, the method section explains the sample as well as methods for data collection and data analysis. The subsequent findings section provides a descriptive overview on the survey results. The final section discusses the findings and concludes on the insights gained from this study.

2. Social Capital Measurement: a Brief Review about the Concept

Social capital consists of social networks, norms and sanctions that facilitate cooperative action among individuals and communities. Any social structure that facilitates cooperation and trust between individuals or groups can be regarded as a form of social capital.

Halpern (2005) argues for the existence of three major cross-cutting dimensions of social capital: components, functions and levels of analysis. The components of social capital, which interact, influence and reinforce each other, consist of networks (interconnection relationships between individuals), norms (rules, values and expectations that guide social relationships) and sanctions (punishments and rewards).

The levels of analysis of the social capital are divided into micro, meso and macro. At the micro-level social capital is composed of close ties with family and friends. The meso-level characterizes the communities and membership organizations, and the macro-level of social capital refers to relations of state and national level. There are functional equivalences among the different levels, i.e. the reduction of capital at one level may be offset by an increase at another level (Halpern 2005).

The main functions of social capital are also known as types of social capital: bridging, bonding and linking (Halpern 2005; Onyx, Bullen 2000; Sabatini 2008).

The bonding social capital involves links between agents in the same position, within homogeneous groups (Monastério 2002). This type of social capital - called by Putnam et al. (1993) the sociological superglue - refers to the strong ties, since the power of a social connection is defined as a combination of time, emotional intensity, intimacy and reciprocal services. Circles of family, friendship or closed communities are typical of these strong ties (Granovetter 1985).

In this sense, the bonding social capital is characterized by strong relations of mutual aid in the local context and high levels of participation (King et al. 1998), which results in dense multi-functional strong ties but localized trust. This type of social capital is characterized to occur among people in some way "likely" - it generates empowerment within horizontal networks (Onyx, Bullen, 2000; Macke et al. 2012).

However, this mutual support can be limited to people who are inserted into the network and cannot be extended to other networks or groups. Moreover, the bridging social capital is developed between different groups of actors and serves to expand the skills and networks resources, which wouldn't be accessible in other ways (Sabatini 2008).

The bridging type is the form of social capital that refers to the weak ties (Granovetter 1985), because it takes place among agents of distinct social groups, facilitating access to various sources of information. The weak ties connections add value to each actor by providing different information sources.

The linking social capital considers relations of unequal power and usually refers to connections between the poor people and those in command positions in formal organizations. It is present in vertical relationships of control and power (Grootaert et al. 2004). In communities where there is a stock of this kind of social capital, the governments are more responsive to the demands coming from the lower strata of the social pyramid (Woolcock 2001).

The literature that relates social capital and poverty reduction argues that, especially in developing countries, the poor people use to have access to high stocks of bonding social capital, a little bridging and almost no linking (Woolcock 2001). In other words, the cohesion among the poor people provides them mutual support, but, not necessarily, provides social fluidity in the vertical direction, which means that their demands remain hidden to the mechanisms of governmental support (Monastério 2002).

Recent researches have also described the role of social capital (considering bonding, bridging and linking functions) in diverse contexts, for example: to transform information in knowledge (Fischer 2013); to overcome catastrophic events (Hawkins and Maurer 2010); to increase adolescent well-being (Aminzadeh et al. 2013).

For the present study, we defend that these three types of social capital are closely related to the three types of network patterns – centralized, decentralized and distributed - presented in the classical work of Baran (1964). Of course, these types are ideal patterns; and what is important for our comparison is to extract the central idea of each one. In the centralized pattern the relationships depend on a central agent (in our case, a few central agents), that can be, for example, the father and/or the mother in the bonding social capital. The decentralized network illustrates the bridging social capital because it can facilitate the connections of weak ties. And the distributed pattern can be considered the most proximal approach to show the linking social capital.

It is important to notice that there are some interrelations between the three aspects of each dimension (networks, norms and sanctions levels micro, meso and macro; types bridging, bonding and linking) (Halpern 2005). These interrelations difficult the analysis and the measurement of social capital and justify the importance of efforts in the building of qualitative and quantitative instruments.

The social capital measurement is seen as a critical point by several authors. According to Gaag and Snijders (2003), in the last two decades, different instruments and indicators were used to measure social capital, but many of these were not developed specifically for the investigation of social capital.

Robert Putnam, coordinator of the Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement in America (sponsored by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government), showed three important explanations for the measurement of social capital. The first is related to tangibility, since the measurement helps to transform the concept into something more tangible to the people who find it difficult or abstract (Saguaro Seminar 2012).

The increase in social capital investments through the allocation of its resources is presented as the second reason. Besides, the support to foundations and community organizations, this constituted as another way to build social capital, because they involve activities that strengthen relationships between individuals and groups.

The literature presents several methods and different types of methodologies related to the measurement of social capital, ranging from informal relationships to formal organizations. Some examples of social capital indicators are: 1) the level of interpersonal (social) trust and positive attitudes towards cooperation with others; 2) the intensity of family and neighbourhood relations and the religious and community participation; 3) the degree of involvement of people in civil society organizations (horizontal associations) in its various forms (recreational, sporting, cultural, professional entities, and others); 4) the involvement of citizens in volunteer and philanthropic work; and 5) the degree of civic engagement and political participation of citizens (elections, demonstrations and protest actions, political parties, and organized groups).

In developing process of an instrument for measuring social capital it is necessary to note three major factors described by Fukuyama (1999). The first, is the qualitative dimension of this capital which implies that a proper measurement should take into consideration the nature of the collective action that a group is able to carry out, for example, its capacity of evaluate the difficulties, the results of the actions and the possibility to entrepreneur under adverse conditions.

Second, we must consider the positive externalities of participation in a group: this consists of a benefit or cost of an activity that falls on an outside person (element). This means that, although all groups require at least a minimum social capital to operate, some groups generate trust between people outside of them (Fukuyama 1999).

The last point is the negative externalities, i.e. the possibility that some groups promote intolerance, hatred or even violence. In this case, these groups have difficulty to cooperate with others - the very closed ties probably make them less adaptable and, consequently, isolate them from the influences of their surroundings (Fukuyama 1999).

3. A New Instrument for Social Capital Measurement in Developing Countries: Methodological Aspects

An example of a study that developed an instrument to measure social capital - based on the work of Coleman (1990) and Putnam (2000) - is found in Onyx and Bullen (2000). The authors studied five Australian communities (two rural communities, two in metropolitan areas and one in Sydney) with the aim of discussing the concept of social capital, and identifying its dimensions and the relationships between elements such as participation in networks, reciprocity, trust, social norms, community and social agency.

In another study, Grootaert et al. (2004) present a tool called the Integrated Questionnaire for Measuring Social Capital (SC-IQ), whose goal is to provide a basis for measuring the different dimensions of social capital. The authors claim that this tool is focused on its application in developing countries and that the results obtained by its use, produce knowledge of the social dimensions for economic development.

Specifically in southern Brazil, we analysed a prominent research of Monastério (2003). The author conducted an analysis of micro-regions of Rio Grande do Sul state, with the goal of creating social capital indicators, testing the ideas presented by Putnam et al. (1993).

For this study, we took advantage of our experience of using Onyx and Bulen (2000) and Monastério (2003) instruments and we decided to build a new instrument by adding the analytical vision presented in Halpern's work (2005). This is due to two reasons: the broad character of Halpern's study and the need to include new variables to the known and tested instruments.

After an extensive theoretical investigation from literature on the most important studies on social capital we started to build variables that could be part of our social capital survey, in the context of communities and cities.

The final instrument version contains 67 variables divided into 2 blocks: 1) social capital variables and 2) control variables, such as: city, time living in the city, rural or urban area, gender, age, marital status, having child(ren), housing (borrowed, rented, mortgaged or fully paid), educational background, work (paid work, unemployed or house work), family income, who decide to move to this city (yourself, your parents, your grandparents, the family always lived in this city) and the expectancy of continuing living in this city.

All items were measured using a five-point Likert scale (1=strongly disagree; 5=strongly agree). Before the formal survey, we conducted semi-structured interviews with five experts in social capital theory to validate our scale items. We also ran a pre-test with thirty respondents.

The survey was conducted in the 18 cities in the region of the west of the state of Santa Catarina (southern Brazil). The calculation of minimum sample size resulted in 398 respondents. We distributed 530 questionnaires, of which 499 were considered valid. The characteristics of the sample satisfy the same proportion for the population, regarding to gender, place of residence (urban or rural), age and educational background.

We used the SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences), version 17, for data analysis. The data were submitted to an exploratory factorial analysis and Cronbach's alpha. Factor analyses were rotated separately for each level of analysis (micro, meso and macro).

4. Micro-level of analysis results and discussion

The data were submitted to factor analysis using PCA (Principal Component Analysis), with varimax rotation and treatment pairwise (considered all valid observations of each variable) for the missing data. The index of Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) adequacy of the sample was 0.653 and the Bartlett's Test of Sphericity - (significant to 0.000) indicated the factorability of data.

Results of factor analysis suggested that social capital is explained by three factors, with 51.64% of total variance explained. The Cronbach´s Alpha for this scale was 0.602, that represents a satisfactory range for an exploratory study (Hair et al. 2003). It is possible to conclude that the items in each dimension of the construct are suitable for measuring the social capital in communities

Table 1. Social capital items and results for the micro-level analysis.







Alpha: 0.564

9 - I usually donate to those in need (clothes collection campaigns, donations of food).




2 - When I get off work or school, I take the opportunity to stay with the family.





18 - I do volunteer work in my neighbourhood or town.





Alpha: 0.517

17 - I help my friends, because one day I might need their help.




7 - I care of my family, because they could take care of me when I need it.




10 - When I need help to make an important decision, I can count on help from friends and acquaintances.





Alpha: 0.412

14 - I have friends from different social classes.




16 - In my neighbourhood there are shops that sell on credit (spun).




1 - I try to keep in touch with my friends (chats, calls, e-mails) to see how they are.




As one contribution of this study, table 1 shows the variables from final solution (as they appear in the questionnaire), in order to provide a social capital scale for the micro-level analysis. The variables belonging to factors with only one or two elements were grouped into most robust factors, considering the improvement in the value of Cronbach's alpha.

By analysing the emerged factors, we observed that they represent the dimensions of social capital theory: bonding, bridging and linking. The meaning of each factor can be inferred from the content.

The most significant factor for the micro-level, linking social capital, grouped variables that show a feeling of collectivism. The variables are related to the habit of making donations to the needy and participation in volunteer work providing an overview of how the relationships between groups of different degrees of power can be manifested.

The second factor found was the bonding social capital, which was composed of the variables linked to the relationship in groups of family and friends. The means of the variables can be considered high, especially in regard to the care and help of family and friends.

This result can be explained by cultural characteristics of the region studied. The counties along the west region of Santa Catarina have been colonized by German and Italian immigrants who arrived first in the state of Rio Grande do Sul and moved to state of Santa Catarina in the 1920's. The settler families maintained family traditions, such as respect for elders, who used to apply their life experience to assist and advise the youth in their decisions. The social capital element that better describes this factor is the strong ties(family and close friends).

Even considering that collective entrepreneurship (Cook and Plunket 2006; Burress and Cook 2009) can occur among people (families) attached to a wider circle of relationships, these people are not "strangers" to each other, in other words, they had previously some kind of relationship characterized not by strong ties, but by weak ties (as demonstrates next paragraph).

The bridging social capital was the third factor found. This factor consists of variables such as having friends from different social classes, buying "on credit" in local markets, and having friends from different social classes. This factor reflects the meaning of weak ties well. (Just to emphasize: the weak ties (Granoveter 1985) are the connections established among friends, acquaintances and distant relatives).

The results call attention to the fact that the averages of the variables in each factor (exception variables 9 and 18) – in other words, the level of social capital in the micro-level- are quite similar. The average factors were: for the bonding, 4.40, for the linking, 3.76 and for the bridging, 4.43.

5. Meso-level of analysis: results and discussion

In the same way, we ran the factor analysis for the meso-level. The index of Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) adequacy of the sample was 0.752 and the Bartlett's Test of Sphericity - (significant to 0.000) indicated the factorability of data. The final solution presented three factors, with 46.56% of total variance explained and the Cronbach´s Alpha for this scale was 0.579. Some variables were regrouped, considering the theoretical validity for the scale.

In the meso-level – different from the micro-level – the most important factor to explain the social capital was the bridging dimension (table 2). This is an expected result: the meso-level is related to a broader range of analysis which privileges the relations between acquaintances and strangers. On the other hand, the micro-level is related to family and close friends.

Table 2. Social capital items and results for the meso-level analysis.







Alpha: 0.628

33 - In my neighbourhood, people tend to help each other.




32 - In my city, people respect each other.




31 -. In my town, people with more financial conditions usually help those who are in need.




24 - I believe that my colleagues and/or classmates are also my friends.





Alpha: 0.533

22 - Outsiders, do not understand the habits of the people in my city.




29 - The people in my city do not readily accept the habits of outsiders.




25 - In my town, people of a neighbourhood do not mix with those of other neighbourhoods.





Alpha: 0.410

35 - In my town, drivers do not respect traffic regulations.




26 - In my town, there are no punishments for hooligans.




37 - In my town, the criminals are free.




The first factor of social capital that emerged from the meso-level analysis reflects the relationships between the different groups within the community and for this reason was named as bridging. The highest average in this group (and also for the whole meso-level) is the variable that considers "colleagues and classmates are also friends", showing the relationships between different groups in which an individual is inserted.

The presence of the bridging as the strongest factor in explaining the meso-level of social capital shows that the people of this region have significant disposition to relate to people who are not part of their family group. The colleagues and classmates connections, as well as, membership in associations, clubs and cooperatives, also contribute to the strengthening of bridges that link the various social groups. Thus, the element of social capital that best portrays the bridging social capital at the meso-level is the social proactivity.

The social proactivity can be evidenced by the cooperative spirit, remarkable in the region. The oldest credit union in the state of Santa Catarina: Sicoob Creditapiranga, was created in 1932, with the aim of assisting the colonization process. This cooperative was founded when there was still no electricity in the region (which was seen only in 1958). In the Santa Catarina there is one cooperative for 28 inhabitants (Gestão Cooperativa, 2013).

The second factor was featured by variables that characterize social identity, in other words, a feeling of belonging (and, moreover, the exclusion) of a particular group. Rich versus poor people and natives versus outsiders represent the type of social capital named bonding.

In the study area, it is possible to observe the existence of ethnic groups that have organized to form "ethnic hives" (Werlang 2006). In these hives (people of certain ethnicity who share traditions and habits) we expect to find some reluctance to accept people outside the hive (nevertheless, it is important to notice that the variables have low averages indicating that the respondents mostly disagree with the statements). This historical characteristic from German and Italian immigration remains implicit in many communities, growing a certain resistance to accept other ethnicities in social life (what could be understood as a self-protection mechanism, in order to maintain the connections with the native land). The process of Brazilianization imposed by the government to European immigrants (Fáveri 2004), unfortunately, dealt with ethnic differences as a problem to be attacked.

In the third factor, named linking, we observed that the variables are related to the feeling of safety, respect for public property, and traffic regulations (remembering that the variables that indicate the absence of social capital, as "In my town, the criminals are free" were reversed before running the factor analysis). All these variables have direct relation with sanctions, in other words, to punishment and rewards for human behaviour.

Every society shares a common set of rules, some of them are formal, some of them not. The opportunity - and why not to say – the temptation to break them is frequent. In both cases, it is the role of citizens to observe and follow the rules. The low averages of the variables in this factor indicate that the respondents do not agree with the statements, and consequently, there is a stock of this type of social capital in that region.

6. Macro-level of analysis: results and discussion

For the macro-level of analysis, the index of Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) adequacy of the sample was 0.615 and the Bartlett's Test of Sphericity was also significant to 0.000. The initial solution presented five factors, with 48.56% of total variance explained and the Cronbach´s Alpha for this scale was 0.593. As in the preview analysis, the final solution regrouped the variables, considering the bonging, bridging and linking dimensions (table 3).

Although the first factor has clustered negative variables (such as, "Brazil should not get involved in the affairs of other countries " and "Brazil will not have to worry about pacifying conflicts in other countries"), these variables showed low means, indicating that respondents disagree with these statements.

This factor - representing the bonding social capital for the macro-level - grouped variables that try to show how a society is open to cooperate with "strangers", i.e., other countries. This cooperation appears through state actions and policies and highlights the importance of societies to establish norms of impersonal altruism (Halpern (2005) uses this expression based on the idealism concepts of Hegel).

The feeling of living in a good place without prejudice is also an indicator of impersonal altruism, because it reinforces the identity even in a very broad and complex context, which is the nation's.

Table 3. Social capital items and results for the macro-level analysis.







0.465 *

54 - {My country} does not have to worry about pacifying conflicts and wars in other countries.




51 - {My country} should not get involved in the affairs of other countries.




57 - In {my country}, only the poor people are arrested.




52 - I do not trust in the {nationality} justice service.





0.467 *

56 - People who live in {my country} learn to respect all races / ethnicities.




58 - I feel proud of being {my nationality}.




50 - In {my country}, people strive to be honest.





0.487 *

53 - The {nationality} government should continue helping poor people through welfare programs, such as {examples}




45 - {My country} should help victims of tragedies in other countries.




The bridging social capital was the second factor discovered at the macro-level. This factor resulted in three variables related to the perceived fairness of the research participants. The variables at this level demonstrate the importance of feelings of nationalism, tolerance of diversity and honesty. It is possible to show, in our case, that the majority of respondents agreed and these statements indicate that there is a stock of linking social capital in the form of openness to trust.

The third factor in the macro-level was the linking social capital, which consists of variables that emphasize the relationship between nations, as well as the perception of fairness and solidarity inside the country.

Besides the whole meaning, we highlight that these variables are related to government: the poor relief and humanitarian aid to other countries. It is important to notice that, there are few instruments for measuring social capital that include variables on government performance and citizen satisfaction. By encompassing private and public sectors and also the citizenship behaviour, these variables put together, shape the conditions to broadening social participation and community building, in other words, strengthening governance.

This result indicates that, probably, there are, in this region, governments open to questions from the lower strata of the social pyramid. The ability to leverage resources, ideas and information from formal institutions in the community is a key function of such kind of social capital.

Conclusively, after analysis the factors generated in the three levels of analysis, it is possible to present a summary table of the social capital performance in the studied region (table 4).

Table 4. Results of social capital dimensions for the levels of analysis.
































By analysing table 4, we observed that, in the micro-level, the bonding social capital is the more expressive, while in meso and macro-levels, it decreases significantly. The fact that the region is composed of small municipalities, where people know each other and live in the same city for years, provides the emergence and the enhancement of informal norms (for this reason, the bonding social capital is quite significant at the micro-level). This group characteristic makes that the search for these rules be monitored and controlled by the group members, who feel responsible and look after each other, reproducing the practice known as "eyes on the street", classical concept from Jane Jacobs (1961).

Therefore, we highlight this important aspect: the tendency of a decreasing in social capital from a micro to a macro viewpoint, in an inverted spiral movement. This is an important discovery, because it shows that when a local action is implemented – and we believe that social capital can be enhanced basically through local actions – something is going to be lost on the way.

What causes this loss? What are the mechanisms of retaining the effects of a local action in order to best raise social capital? These are all questions that we are going to work on the next steps of the research.

We can raise some hypotheses in order to try to answer this puzzle. One aspect to be considered for the lower social capital in macro level is the resistant of those communities to using the state as a solution for collective problems, as Halpern (2005) pointed out. This is quite plausible considering that the people who live in this region maintain the immigrant's entrepreneurship spirit, which afforded the Europeans to survive and build a sense of 'home'.

Another possibility lies on the impact of some individual decisions in the society: some decisions (like for example, to have a child) have a great impact on long-term functioning of society and on policy outcomes. It seems to be just individual decisions, but, in fact, these are the starting point of many of the collective problems (or, solutions).

This may show a tendency to overestimate self-interested values and lifestyle, even if it does not match at the collective level - and probably not even at the individual. Therefore, at the individual level, while the self-interested values and the social trust might be only weakly correlated, at meso and macro levels they appear to be strongly related (this is also discussed in Halpern, 2005).

Even considering the literature on social capital formation, it still remains the question: could every portion of social capital in an intimate level be converted without losses, in wider level? We believe that this answer starts with another question: how social capital emerges through a collective networked-oriented action? This is the central question learned from this research and it constitutes the embryo for a new research in near future.

What we can already conclude is that the different types of social capital appear in the form of key elements, which we highlighted in the previous result description. Therefore, we argue that the bridging development begins with weak ties network, which in turn can be transformed into social proactivity and this, in turn, into openness to trust. In figure 1, we show the elements for the three types of social capital studied.

Figure 1. The main elements of each social capital dimension.

In order to illustrate this viewpoint, we built a scatter plot (Figure 2) showing the social capital performance (mean) versus the people agreement (through the inverse of standard deviation, i.e. the higher the standard deviation, the less the agreement level).

Figure 2. Social capital patterns considering performance and agreement.

We can notice that in the micro level, all the three types of social capital are in the best situation: higher performances and also a consensus in the evaluation of this performance. The same occurs with the bridging for the meso and macro levels. So, it is possible to conclude that, for the studied region, the bridging social capital, in all levels of analysis, is in a good position.

Notwithstanding, the meso bonding, the meso linking and the macro bonding need to be improved, which indicates that social identify, sanctions and impersonal altruism are key elements to improve the social capital in the context. This framework can be helpful to government and civil society agents in the planning and evaluation of public policies.

Of course, it is not simple at all: it is important to discover the leverage points through which the transformation occurs. Despite of that, based on Halpern's (2005) arguments, it is possible to argue that, in some situations, a society can substitute social capital elements at one level for another. In other words, there is some functional equivalence between the three levels, making the building of a multi-level measuring instrument relevant.

This paper seeks to contribute to the efforts of understanding how norms, networks and relationships at the intimate, family or micro-level can influence broader contexts. Actions that encourage people's participation in the debate and find solutions to common problems foment civic engagement and the perception that the community plays a key role in social development and democracy, as shown by Souza Briggs (2008). The development of civic engagement, the motivation for solidarity and the cooperative actions are important assumptions that should be enriched and enhanced in civic communities. According to this statement, in a civic community there is social cohesion, harmony and good government.

7. Final Considerations

Social capital is a resource that facilitates some forms of social action and inhibits others. The social relations between members of a family or community have emerged as an important factor for the development of human capital and for the social development as a whole. Therefore, some of these relationships can be beneficial within a group but bad for people outside it (Coleman 1988; 1990; Nahapiet and Ghoshal 1998).

This seemingly contradictory nature of social capital can be understood through its various functions: bonding social capital, bridging social capital, and linking social capital (Passey and Lyons 2006). These functions of social capital reflect the different roles that networks or relationships can play in the economic development of a society (Sabatini 2008).

Thus, it should be strengthened all policies that provide a balance between the three types of social capital. Likewise, the policies that promote imbalances in the social capital should be avoided. So, it is important to develop actions that promote group activities, where people can discuss ideas to maintain the culture and habits of the communities, such as senior citizen, mothers', women farmers, sports and leisure groups. It is worthwhile to promote the integration among different groups, in order to pass the knowledge and expertise of elders to younger generation. So you have the possibility of preserving and maintaining cultural characteristics of the communities, as well as integration between different groups.

Another action that could be promoted in communities is the strengthening of neighbourhood associations. These organizations should focus their activities on local interests, starting from the needs perceived by the residents, such as environmental preservation, collection, selection and recycling of trash, safety, beautification and preservation of public spaces.

In the same way that previous research had significant contribution to this work, it should be emphasized that further research will be developed based on the instrument tested in the extreme west of Santa Catarina. The use of the instrument based on the social capital matrix created by Halpern (2005) has as its aim the improvement on measuring issues, by considering the three types of social capital and the three levels of analysis. Of course, the adoption of this instrument in other countries would imply a careful review of variables to take into account the cultural aspects of the context under study.

The development of a human institution may not be evaluated in a short term. The rhythms of changes in institutions are slow. Thus, this study intends to provide a tool to understand the civic capacity of a given community, by showing the performance of social capital elements. In a future phase we intend to relate this social capital performance with specific actions, laws and social movements. It is also our aim to reply the instrument in different countries to build comparative studies. After the improvement of the instrument we can build a longitudinal study, by regularly measuring the three social capital types over time and across different countries.


This research has been supported by the authors affiliations and financed by the National Counsel for Scientific and Technological Development of Brazil (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico - CNPq) and the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel of Brazil (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento do Pessoal de Nível Superior – Capes).


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1. Doctor in Business Admnistration. Professor and researcher at Faculdade. Meridional (IMED) e Universidade de Caxias do Sul (UCS) –Email:
2. Master in Business Admnistration. Professor at Universidade do Oeste de Santa Catarina (UNOESC) –Email:

Vol. 37 (Nº 14) Año 2016


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