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Written by Patrick Trottier
Social capital, or ‘reputational capital’ as it is also referred to, is defined as the goodwill available to parties in relationships that are characterized by high levels of trust, mutual understanding, mutual goals and interests, complementary competencies, and strong communication ties.
Social and reputational capital is not a thing (in a material sense) but an intention or a willingness on the part of one person or party to act on behalf of, and to join in mutual interests with some other party, organization, community or network.
Social capital can be manifested in many ways within and between communities, service organizations, businesses and social networks. The model that I have worked with focuses on five expressions of social capital and reputational capital that are especially relevant to community, service and business enterprises:
1. sharing of information and other resources,
2. adhering to norms and actions of reciprocity, commitments and mutual sustainability while
3. exerting influence, relationship, connections and opportunity on behalf of one another, and
4. forming ‘partnerships’ of appropriate levels of shared responsibility as well as
5. how others perceive your organization or your business, – be they customers or potential customers, other businesses or potential business associates, your communities, or any other parties that many have a current or future impact on your sustainability and growth.
How important is building ‘trust’ in building social and reputational capital? Trust, it seems to me, is the ‘cornerstone’ everything else is built on. Thus, it seems that such ‘social or reputational capital’ comes from a foundation of trust where mutual interests and common goals can be established and acted on. Trust forms positive relationships that further enhance effective communication and performance for all parties. Even different functions within an organization seem to be more effective to achieve results when trust and reputational capital is established.
So how is trust and reputaion built? I believe trust and reputation is built through integrity – by doing what an organization says it is going to do relevant to their spoken values, promises, contractual obligations (formal / informal) and through the congruousness of its actions.
Trust takes time and a concerted effort to establish – or does it? Some say that we start out with the intent to trust but ‘things’ seem to tear it down over time. Do we pay enough attention to continually build the trust that keeps things together – that interweaves everything like the fabric in a piece of cloth.
Trust can be a delicate thing – one word, one deed, even a misunderstanding that escalates out of control can develop tears in the fabric of trust. In my experience, when trust diminishes, it can be re-established when there is a willingness and openness to do so.
In relationships that are imbued with trust social capital is built. The different parties come together to understand what kind of information, needs, desires, goals, interests, etc. is relevant to the other, and then begin to trust each other within a process of establishing and building upon their common goals, interests, needs, desires, obligations, etc.
The specific focus on the development of social capital supports all types of organizations to build connections and opportunity – locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.
I have worked to create such social and reputational capital in private businesses especially in business development, in production, in sales and marketing, as well as in service organizations that are interconnected to deliver community services such as emergency medical, fire and police. People and organizations in such relationships may agree to even arrange direct access to each other’s networks of contacts and resources for mutual benefit.
The attribute of social and reputational capital is critical within and between municipalities and regional governments as well as in non-profit communities and charitable organizations for mutual sustainability.
It seems to me that the need to build social and reputational capital exists in every sort of organization one can imagine.
The competency to strategically leverage and build from an organization’s strengths and existing connections seems critical in these days of ‘fast food’, ‘fast solutions’, ‘fast technology’ and ‘fast paced business’.
How well is your organization’s ‘Social and Reputational Bank’ doing? Are you continually making deposits or withdrawals?
Is your organization continually focused on building those deposits of social and reputational capital as an organizational strategy? Is your organization building the competencies and the processes to do so?
What competencies, tools and processes need to be built to support such?
Is it time to make a deposit?