Building bridges and strengthening bonds: An exploratory investigation into social capital and youth programming

Online Publication Date:
February 2, 2023
Publication Status:
Published Article MUSE Link:
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**Published in Progress in Community Health Partnerships (PCHP) 17.4. All rights reserved.**


Background. Social capital is increasingly recognized as a key component of adolescent development, providing important opportunities to grow and strengthen their social networks while increasing access to resources such as jobs and social support. 
Objectives. This study explored how youth-serving organizations (YSOs) across California address social capital development and assessed need for a social capital curriculum or measurement tools. 
Methods. The sample for this study was drawn from the 2019 IRS Business Master File from the National Center for Charitable Statistics Data Archive. We contacted a random sample of 169 California YSOs and implemented a 15-item survey to capture organizational perspectives on the importance of social capital, tools to measure this construct, and the use of programming related to social capital. 
Results. Among 41 YSOs completing the survey, only 24 (59%) had heard of the term “social capital,” but when the term was described, 88% felt it was a highly important asset for youth. Thirty YSOs (73%) provided programming designed to promote social capital. Most respondents (68%) said being able to measure social capital would be very important and nearly all said they would be interested in adopting a tested social capital curriculum. 
Conclusions. Strong interest from YSOs for additional social capital tools highlights the need for additional work in this area. With support, YSOs can connect young people to institutions and influencers significantly outside of normal social circles, thus creating an increasingly sustainable and diverse range of resources available to youth as they navigate life milestones.