Social Capital – Connecting to connect

Social Capital – Connecting to connect

Have you heard about Multilevel Marketing or Pyramid Scheme; I am not really a fan of it. Not because it is a wrong model but because it is used wrongly in Africa. How can I swap my relationship with a friend that took me years to build for a financial benefit promised by a marketing company for a product that has quality and cost effective alternative. I notice this happens because Africa does not understand the value embedded in relationships.  I want to talk about one asset that has received low attention in Africa, especially among the middle and lower class. We make use of this asset on a daily bases without knowing that we use it and sometimes having it without tapping its potentials – Social Capital.

Earlier this year, I wanted to change my Verve Card to MasterCard to enable me make payments online to international vendors. I went to my bank, which happens to be one of the strong banks in Nigeria. (Strong in Capital base, but very notorious in customer services) I met the Customer Service Agent and explain why I was there. She asked me to go and get an International Passport in a dismissal tone. I was surprise not because of the attitude of the agent, but because I have my National ID and based on my research that’s all that is needed. I asked again to confirm if I heard correctly. This time with a tone of anger, she repeated what she said and added “without it, you cannot change your card.”

I left with the resolve to use my social media skills against the branch, but before I left the area, I visited one of our company locations close to the bank. Narrating my experience to one of my colleague and my intention to flag the poor customer experience to the regulatory body, prompted her to call the Branch Manager who is her very good friend. I was asked to come back and for the first time in my life, I received an executive, express and wonderful customer service from both the Branch Manager and the same staff that ask me for international passport. I left the bank with my new MasterCard without International Passport.

Yes, I gave a feedback through their Social Media Platform but a positive one. Social Capital – I know my colleague,
she knows the Bank Manager, the Bank Manager knows the Customer Care Agent and I got what I needed.

The ability to achieve our goals, fulfill our missions, and make our contributions to the world depends as much on the resources available in and through personal and business networks (Social Capital) as it does on our knowledge, expertise and experience (Human capital). People who consciously build and maintain the right networks get the resources they need when they need them.

According to Wayne Baker in his book Achieving Success through Social Capital; Social Capital refers to the resources available in and through personal and business networks. These resources include information, ideas, leads, business opportunities, financial capital, power and influence, emotional support, goodwill, trust, and cooperation.

The “Social” in social capital emphasizes that these resources are not personal assets; no single person owns them. The resources are in network of relationships, and access to them depends on who you know – the size, quality and diversity of your personal and business networks. But beyond that, social capital depends also on the people you don’t know, if you are indirectly connected to them via your networks. This is the principle behind, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media and professional online platform.

The “Capital” emphasizes that social capital like every other capital is productive; it enables us to create value, get things done, and achieve our goals.

In Nigeria, we publicly frown at the word “connection” and secretly covet it. I also grow up to hate the word, but I have discovered that the evil is not what having connection does, but the beneficiaries of quality networks. They misuse it, especially present generation.


An example of this happens in one of my previous work place;

Our supervisor knows the father of this young lady, she is studying computer science and needs a place of Industrial Attachment, and the supervisor went against the company policy and takes her in for the IT Programme. This young lady understands that her presence in our office was purely on connection but from the first day, it was obvious that she was studying Fashion, Blackberry Messenger and Music. If you have worked in an ICT centre, you will know that it’s not showbiz. I was not surprised when I did not see her again after the first week.

Like her, we all have social capital, in and through our friends, neighbors, family members, and schoolmates. How to deliberately identify, manage and increase this network is what has eluded this generation.

Success is social; it depends on our relationships with others. All the ingredients of success that we customarily think of as “individual” – natural talent, intelligence, education, effort, and luck – are intricately intertwined with networks.

Let’s take “Luck” as an example, some people seems to have a knack for being at the right place at the right time. Yet this kind of luck is not accidental; it is cultivated. Lucky people increase their chances of being in the right place at the right time by building a network structure of relationships that catches lots of different bits and pieces of information. They increase the chances of beneficial accidental encounters by living in a zig zag. This enables them to boost their luck by bouncing their ideas off others, learning from others and helping others.


Social Capital – Benefits of Connection

According to Edward Hallowell, M.D., to gain the benefits of connection, it doesn’t matter what kind of connection a person had. For example, you could live alone, but have frequent contact with friends or relatives, and be protected. Or you could belong to various voluntary organizations, but not participate in any religious activity, and still be protected. Or your connection could come from church and family, but not from any volunteer organization, and you would still be protected. The key to gaining the benefits of connection was to have several kinds of connection, but the kinds could vary from person to person.

In next post I will treat how to maintain and increase your social capital.

In conclusion, individuals who build and use social capital get better jobs, better pay, faster promotions, and are more influential and effective, compared with peers who are unable or unwilling to tap the power of social capital.

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