Foundations for self-directed support in Scotland
Foundations for self-directed support in Scotland

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Foundations for self-directed support in Scotland

2.5 The benefits of social capital

Activity 2.4: Social capital

(Allow about 15 minutes)

Watch this short video cartoon [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , which explains what social capital is. The context is a US one – but you should be able to identify many parallels with day-to-day life in the UK.

  1. What benefits arose from this man's social capital?
  2. What other benefits can you identify from high levels of social capital?

Use your learning log to note down your ideas.


The man in the cartoon used his social networks to sort out a problem (his flooded basement). He also extended those networks, so generating greater social capital by connecting with someone new in his community. The outcome (or result) of this was that he heard about an employment opportunity.

There are many other possible benefits of social capital. Robert Putnam, a political scientist from the USA, has been enthusiastic about the benefits of social capital for many years. He argues that the amount of social capital present in a community can be measured by the degree of connectedness there is, or the number of networks that exist. Drawing on data gathered in the USA for more than 25 years, Putnam mapped different indicators of social capital (formal and informal connectedness), and identified the extent of social capital present in each state. He was then able to claim that:

  • states where people are more connected with each other are marked by greater tolerance
  • happiness increases with both the individual’s own and their state’s measure of social capital
  • violent crime is rarer in high social capital states
  • health is better in high social capital states
  • social capital and economic equality go together.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has over 40 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus