Dimensions of Social Capital

Social capital is… “resources … available throughrelationships possessed by an individual or social unit” 

(Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998)

1. Relational Social Capital: How We Trust and Relate to Each Other

Relational social capital is reflected in group norms and obligations; in the development of personal credibility and expectations of reciprocity between partners. Responding to the needs of others by mentoring and facilitating connections in the business ecosystem are examples of the creation and use of relational social capital.

Transparent communication, especially in the face of challenges, also enhances our ability to co-create innovative solutions to problems.

Openness, Transparency, Reciprocity, Reputation, Community

The development of personal relationships, more than business transactions, is what furthers trust among partners. Nurturing trust in personal relationships is reinforced through face-to-face conversations, and by demonstrating commitment and consistent values over time. Trust is first developed at a personal level, where it generates credibility, reputation and access to resources.

Trust takes time to build. It is important to create safety within internal units, before reaching out to partners to align interests and work on common goals. Once personal trust is established, additional benefits such as greater risk taking, and enhanced access to partner resources can be leveraged.

Nurturing Trust in Personal Relationships

Relational Social Capital in the Parks and Protected Areas Community 

We work with ”the power of connecting” , linking to social science to demonstrate impact; supporting and maturing Indigenous relations.

– Elisabeth Lacoursière, Parks Canada

We want to “be informed not only by the work but by those who are working on it, including Indigenous leaders”

– Wesley Johnston, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs)

“We ask: Will this help us connect an inclusive community of awesome park leaders?”

– Don Carruthers Den Hoed, CPCIL

2. Cognitive Social Capital: How We Perceive and Create Shared Meaning

We can start creating shared meaning on our projects by developing a clear vision and purpose. Using a shared language and clarifying working definitions can create a common basis for transactions in partnerships. Finding ways to define risks as opportunities in pursuit of the public interest can create more win-win opportunities; another example of the creation and use of cognitive social capital.

Identity, Values, Goals, Purpose…A Shared Mindset
Shapes Alignment toward Results

This means having a common way of thinking about innovation in all its aspects, and about the means to achieve innovation outcomes. A shared language, including common definitions, helps to explain what a project or innovative idea is about to potential collaborators, so that risks can be transformed into opportunities to create innovation.

Seek to understand the values you share with your partners, and use these as a grounding for action to develop a common purpose that is beyond the goals of individual organizations. A shared mindset across the partnership makes ideas spread more rapidly, and makes them more usable to create innovative solutions.

Facilitating a Shared Mindset across the Partnership

Cognitive Social Capital in the Parks and Protected Areas Community 

Guiding concepts in Parks and protected areas include:

  • Valuing parks for health in addition to conservation and biodiversity by understanding visitor experience and health / restorative outcomes
  • Ecological economics (Eric Miller, York University) to relate economies to ecosystems and conservation of nature, including ecosystem services
  • Sustainability
    In Canada this includes: conservation, Indigenous relations, visitors, financial sustainability, tourism economy


Many CPCIL resources and processes develop cognitive social capital:

  • Learning and Resource inventory
  • Knowledge framework
  • Knowledge mobilization as part of connecting with the research community

3. Structural Social Capital: How We Are Structured and Networked

The structural dimension describes how we are connected; who relates to whom and how resources are exchanged in organizations and partnerships. Making bureaucratic processes more transparent for partners, or leveraging virtual platforms and tools to collaborate across networks are examples of the creation and use of structural social capital.

Bonding Social Capital 

= Relations Within  Communities, Groups, Networks

Bridging Social Capital 

= Relations Between  Communities, Groups, Networks

Linking Social Capital 
= Relations with  formal institutions

Creating and maintaining networks for collaboration

This means building bridges to exchange knowledge and advice, or to obtain feedback on prototypes as part of the innovation process. In addition to helping project participants feel less isolated, collaboration networks facilitate the detection of critical problems that might require innovative solutions. Effective collaboration networks have the potential to address gaps in clarity, integration and alignment.

Creating and using structural social capital through virtual tools such as online platforms can support communication and relationship building in real time, to help you achieve your strategic objectives.

Structural Social Capital in the Parks and Protected Areas Community 

Ontario’s Healthy Parks, Healthy People program is one of many communities that exist to show the health benefits of time in parks (e.g. parkprescriptions.ca)
Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) have links to three advisory panels, and are connected by the Conservation Through Reconciliation Partnership (conservation-reconciliation.ca).

CPCIL examples include:

  • CPCIL Parks research and knowledge network facilitates collaboration that can inform research and  link to leadership development program.
  • Park Leaders development program
  • Parks Research network
  • Financial community of practice