Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Social Capital is a fundamental requirement for associations to work.

The IOCE has an EvaLeaders listserve which aims to connect key people across the worlds' evaluation associations. I took up the task of trying to think of something to do to get the discussion going. We settled for a "monthly discussion question" and after posting the first of the questions, we were met with a resounding silence.

A variety of hypotheses were shared in order to explain the silence, the most interesting one:

"Our first question assumed that those on the EvaLeaders list share a sense of community with leaders of other IOCE member evaluation associations, and thus would be willing to take the time to write something about what their group is up to... the reality check is that there is a long-term process involved".

Concepts like "Evaluation Community" and "Community of Practice" are frequently used when speaking about Evaluation Associations, but I certainly have not sat down to think of what this actually means in practice. I have not really come to terms with the fact that social capital is inherent in working networks... capital in all shapes and sizes are requried for a network to work. In a working network, more social capital is also easily created.

Evaluation Associations are social networks, and although we typically evaluate an association's effectiveness by the number of activities they present and by the size of their membership, the true value of an association is actually in the strength of the links between members. Its these links that make shared values and common activities possible. If something as abstract as "hapiness" can dynamically spread through social networks*, then surely values, knowledge and a whole host of other fuzzy, yet potentially important evaluation-aligned attributes can be transferred too.

The question is: How do you get the minimum social capital together to start a vibrant network? Are there social-capital loans available from the World Bank? How many in-kind donations would be required? :)

I'm afraid I have more questions than answers to ponder...

*"Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis ver 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study" written by James Fowled and Nicholas Christakis. (BMJ 2008;337:a2338 doi:10.1136/bmj.a2338)


AnzelS said...

Do let me know if you have any success with the social capital loans venture ;)

Just a thought - Perhaps the answer is in the process and not the people?

PSA red. said...

That makes sense. But if social capital is a pre-requisite to make an email group work, is it impossible to create the social capital via the email group?

Joleen said...


I am an RA at Claremont Graduate University, where we offer M&E training as an annual summer outreach. I thought readers might be interested in the series, especially since we'll be webcasting 6 of the 18 full-day workshops this year.

The series will take place August 21-26, 2009 in Claremont California (near Los Angeles). We've had professionals and academics from around the world fly in for this in past, and are hoping that the webcast will make the training even more accessible this year. Here are some of this year's workshops:

--Utilization-Focused Evaluation (Michael Quinn Patton)
--Meta-Evaluation: A Checklist Approach (Michael Scriven)
--Practical Program Evaluation: a Theory-Driven Approach (Huey Chen & Stewart Donaldson)
--Using Technology to Enhance Applied Research and Evaluation (Stewart Donaldson & Tarek Azzam)

For a full list of the workshops offered this year, visit < >

There's also a pair of debates planned between Dr. Patton, Dr. Scriven, and Dr. Fetterman on August 23 and 24, which will be webcast for free to a limited number of viewers. More info is available at the link above.

Thanks again and keep on blogging, can't wait to hear the next installment.

Joleen Archibald
School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences
Claremont Graduate University

Anthony Ho said...

Dear Madam, thanks for ur information, I'm MBA' student, I have to write an essay and my idea is "social capital in M&E field" I think ur info is useful for me