Community Social Indicators

Social capital
Community needs

Social capital

One major way in which social enterprises can affect local communities and groups of people is through increasing what is often referred to as ‘social capital’. In order to make the concept of ‘social capital’ more easily measurable, the social capital module of the UK General Household Survey (GHS) defined it as a combination of:

  • Civic engagement
  • Neighbourliness (reciprocity and trust in neighbours)
  • Social networks (friends and relatives)
  • Social support
  • Perceptions of local area

Who might use these indicators?

Development trusts, co-operatives, social enterprises seeking to engage people in their communities and build trust and networks in communities might find it useful to measure their effects on the elements of social capital.

Measuring social capital

Due to social capital’s many different elements, you may want to focus on one of its particular aspects or you may briefly want to skim through them all. The table in this section lists some indicators that may help you to identify some key questions, which you may ask as part of a survey, or a face-to-face interview, with a sample of people in a given area, and ask people both before and after the work you’ve done. 1

Social indicators: social capital

People feel civically-engaged/ involved in their community
Feels civically engaged

  • Feels well-informed about local affairs
  • Feels they can influence decisions that affect the area
  • Feels that people in their neighbourhood can influence decisions that affect the neighbourhood

Not civically engaged

  • Has not been involved in a local organisation
  • Does not feel well-informed
  • Does not feel they or others can influence decisions that affect the neighbourhood
Reciprocity with neighbours

  • Do neighbours look out for each other (yes/ no)
  • Have you done a favour for a neighbour? (yes/ no)
  • Have you received a favour from a neighbour (yes/ no)

Trust in neighbours

Would you say that you trust (most / many / a few / none) of the people in your neighbourhood?

Social networks
Satisfactory friend network

  • Saw or spoke to friends at least once a week
  • Had at least one close friend who lives nearby

Satisfactory relatives network

  • Saw or spoke to close relative at least once a week
  • Had at least one close relative who lives nearby
Social support
Low social support

  • had fewer than three people they could turn to during a serious personal crisis

High social support

  • had at least three sources of support for three different scenarios (Needing a lift; Needing help when ill in bed; Needing to borrow money)
Perceptions of local area (Local area must be specified)
  • Facilities
  • Problems
  • Enjoy living ‘here’
  • Feelings of safety walking at night
  • Victim of crime in the last 12 months?
Perceptions of local area
Enjoyment of living in the area

  • Would you say this is an area you enjoy living in?

Feeling safe walking around after dark

  • How safe do you feel walking around after dark?  (very safe / fairly safe / not safe)
  • Has the person been a victim of crime in the last twelve months? (yes / no)

You may use the questions in the table above as guidelines to develop your own indicators of social capital that are specific to your community. Basing your investigation of social capital on issues that are important to the community can help to capture the essence of social capital more effectively. For more help on this, please check Prove It! in the tools section of this website.

Community needs

Many social enterprises specialise in providing goods and services to particular groups or the overall community where there is a ‘gap’ in the market, or they may actively try to influence the provision of these goods and services. A gap in the market can mean either a particular good or service not being available locally at all, or that it is simply not affordable to all people. Meeting needs in this way may include anything from health and training provision, to goods and services with specific social or environmental benefits, such as Fair Trade goods or renewable energy, which we will come to in the section on environmental indicators.

Who might use these indicators?

Measuring increases in access to goods and services may be useful for demonstrating the effects of a development trust, community business or community development initiative, either by providing these things directly or by influencing others (e.g. local groups and statutory agencies) to provide them instead.

Measuring community needs

Looking at changes in waiting lists or surveying people about their experience of accessing particular goods and services can help to measure changes in meeting community needs. See the table below. These indicators can be measured quantitatively, indicating perhaps the percentages of people in need of a service versus those who have access, both before and after your organisation’s initiative.

Social indicators: social and human services

Social and human services in an area
Measure the demand for these services and increases in provision:

  • Education provision
  • Pre-school education provision
  • Adult Further Education provision
  • Health services by population
  • Anti-poverty benefits uptake
  • Anti-poverty campaigns to increase uptake
  • Access to affordable housing
  • Resident participation in housing associations

1 The indicators in this table are adapted from the social capital module of the UK General Household Survey (GHS) 2000/2001 as referenced in: Walker, A. and Coulthard, M. (2004)  Developing and Understanding Indicators of Social Capital.  Printed in Social Capital For Health: Issues of Definition, measurement, and links to Health. Ed. Morgan, A. Swann, C. NHS Health Development Agency

Social capital and health:
Prove it!:


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