Chain Reaction Foundation

Developing a Social Capital Framework Embracing Diversity and Celebrating Difference

by Margaret Bell | May 26, 2017

Australia is not a poor nation in terms of community. A study carried out by Australian Unity and Deakin University released in 2016 showed that Australia is becoming happier. The research identified several aspects as contributing to happiness – safety, future security, living standards and community connection.

But we cannot become complacent; there is no utopian endgame to pursue here, just an ongoing progression towards an incrementally better society. Social capital plays a major role in this, and must be fostered across all of our communities; not just a select or particularly affluent few.

Social capital is a two-way street. All of us want to feel looked after by our local communities – that we are living in a place and among people who will support us and provide for us if needs be – but this is not enough. The majority of us want to also give back to these communities and to feel invested in our local area on a profound level.

This is the ethos behind the Social Capital Framework, launched by the Chain Reaction Foundation. By constructing this program and this framework, we hope to give community groups across Australia the ideas and inspiration they need to build social capital initiatives in their local areas. It is hoped that, through this framework, more Australians will be able to take pride in the areas they inhabit and to feel invested in and protected by their community.

The Process

So, how did the Chain Reaction team arrive at this framework? Like any other positive social movement, it began with a conversation. In fact, in this instance, it began with over 1,000 conversations.

We needed to understand the modern Australian community; its values and its objectives. We have done a lot of work in the New South Wales region, but we wanted to deliver this framework well beyond this set of geographical parameters, so we cast our net further.

The framework that you see today is the result of several months of development, and of conversations with over 1,000 community figures and members in locations stretching from Cape York to Tasmania.

The Methodology

We asked these communities the following questions;

  • What makes a diverse and engaged community?
  • How can new leadership be provided?
  • How to develop the good governance required to enable all citizens to share in and celebrate success?
  • How to address community concerns in a sustainable manner?

From the outset, we understood that we would need to seek out diverse voices if the answers we received from these questions were to be in any way useful. We spoke to men and women across an array of different age groups, stretching from children as young as 11 to senior figures in the community. We also ensured that people from a representative variety of different ethnic and religious backgrounds had their voices heard, as well as figures from rural as well as urban communities, and aboriginal communities as Australia’s First Peoples.

The Tenets

Following our researching, we elected to base our Social Capital Framework on three key principle factors;

  • The Tangible Dimensions of Building Engagement
  • The Links Between the Tangible Dimensions
  • The Underlying Conditions for the Tangible Dimensions to Exist

As you can see, the aim here to create a unified and comprehensive set of elements which support and strengthen one another. We also made sure that we focussed on real, actionable steps that a community can take to grow, develop and improve.

We will be exploring these three tenets in more detail. We invite you to take a look and gain insight into what we hope to achieve with our Social Capital Framework; as we see an improved Australia is achieved through improved local communities.

Margaret Bell, AM - Founder and CEO of Chain Reaction Foundation.

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