Rethinking Social Capital Measurement

Rethinking Social Capital Measurement

Laurence Saglietto (Université Côte d'Azur, CNRS, GREDEG, France), Delphine David (University of Paris 13 Sorbonne Paris Cité, France) and Cécile Cezanne (University Paris 13 Sorbonne Paris Cité, France)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0959-2.ch012

Abstract

Social capital is decisive to many of strategic objectives of organizations. Although it has been extensively defined in the literature, social capital continues to be discussed in particular concerning its measurement. What is the usability of the existing indicators of social capital? How do managers decide which one they would prefer? An overview of the literature reveals that there are very few measurements of social capital and those which have already developed are very complex. Direct measurements appear to provide a better understanding of the complexity of relationships than aggregated measurements. Yet, we show that they are of unsatisfactory quality. Using simple counter-examples, we advance that they give rise to contradictions. From this discussion and using Graph Theory, we propose two complementary indicators of social capital which we call “relational strength” and “relational potential”. These operational indicators can be handled by any actors to position themselves within their social sphere.
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Introduction

For several decades, sociologists and political scientists have written huge amounts of literature on sociability and social capital, first in the United States and then in Europe (for recent researches, see for example Häuberer, 2011; Tzanakis, 2013; Villalonga-Olives and Kawachia, 2015; Wincent et al., 2016). The ideas put forward have also attracted economists and managers. Is this just a trend or is there real interest in reading about the economic and managerial issues covered in these works? Could such a concept make a significant contribution to the comparative study of new theoretical approaches and the emergence of a new measurement useful to researchers and managers alike? To what extent can social capital justify certain strategic objectives within a company? How much can an entity (group, company, alliance) rely on its members’ social capital to create new momentum or remain prosperous? The authors see these as important questions which emphasise that the link between social capital and strategic behaviour is not incongruous. Nevertheless, it must be channelled if the authors want to move the debate forward and show the relationship’s influence on performance. This is the topic covered herein.

The chapter has two aims: review current arguments over the notion of social capital and, more specifically, its measurement; and show that researchers and managers can be given an open-source operational tool that allows them to measure social capital more accurately. A kind of “actionable knowledge” as Argyris puts it (1995, p. 257): “knowledge that is both valid and can be put into action in everyday life”.

The chapter is structured as follows. The authors first describe the issues surrounding social capital in the light of economic and managerial problems, and discuss available indicators while stressing their limitations. They then discuss existing ways of measuring social capital. On this basis, the authors propose an operational measure, articulated around two notions, which they call “relational strength” and “relational potential”. This measurement system is helpful to analyse how actors position themselves within their social universe.

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