Social capital is a measure of the connections between members of a community. It is a measure not of just do you know your neighbors, but do you hang out with them. Do you bowl alone, or do you bowl in a league? It is the community equivalent of business networking events. Business people understand the power of networking–community people need to harness the same power.
Social capital is not just important in a touchy feely kumbaya way–fostering social capital produces tangible results. In communities where social capital is high, kids do better in school, more people volunteer, more people vote and other wise care about their city and there is less crime–all the things we in Trenton want to have happen. By hanging out in casual settings (not just at rallies, for example, but at a regular spades game), people increase their networks and when a problem arises, whether it is personal or community-wide, solutions are easier because there are more people to help solve it. The more diverse the group (by religion, by race, by age, by socio-economic class) the better, as it more dramatically expands the resources of the group.
For example, Classics Books has a Scrabble Club on Warren Street in Trenton. In 2009, 138 people played there, but there are 20-30 regulars. When one of the regulars was unemployed, another one of the other regulars was able to get her a job at his company. This happened twice. When the mural on Warren Street was vandalized, the club took up a collection. Several of the members noticed the need for a Trenton-focused literary magazine, and the Trenton Review
was born. One of the members of the club starting a knit and stitch group at Classics, which in turn knitted and donated skull caps to the troops in Afghanistan. Whether personal or national, this group is able to pool their resources to address problems.
Everything Classics does centers on building social capital or followed up community answers to proposed problems
- the hosting of independent community groups like BOOST, the urban studies group, Trenton Knit and Stitch, Peoples and Stories
- hosting the Scrabble and chess clubs
- the book signings and open mics
- The Trenton Review
- the Books at Home Program
We would like to thank the Princeton Area Community Foundation for their guidance and fiscal support.