Relationships are often valuable as a means to achieving important goals, such as employment, housing, or education: The power of who you know goes a long way. Scholars often refer to these networks and relationships as social capital. As Camille Busette and her co-authors write in their Brookings report, “How We Rise: How social networks impact economic mobility”:

“Social networks, providing access to support, information, power, and resources, are a critical and often neglected element of opportunity structures. Social capital matters for mobility.”
In this report, we focus on the role of social capital in promoting educational opportunities and outcomes, especially in terms of the transition from high school to postsecondary institutions. We draw in particular on a series of semi-structured interviews with practitioners in selected organizations, who are adopting a social capital-based approach to improving educational outcomes at this key life stage.
The main messages of the paper are as follows:
  1. Social capital = relationships that uplift.
  2. Social capital can improve educational outcomes.
  3. Programs are using social capital to boost opportunity.
  4. Some of the key lessons of these programs are that both bridging and bonding social capital have a role to play, with families acting as important accelerators (or brakes) on student opportunities and mentors from different backgrounds providing wider network opportunities.
  5. Social capital is an overlooked factor in policy efforts to promote opportunity.

Read the full article about building social capital by Richard V. Reeves and Beyond Deng at Brookings.