Part II: Commission Findings and Recommended Strategies
Strong Community Problem Solving Requires “Bridging Capital” Putnam’s work identified two kinds of social capital, “bonding” and “bridging.” Bonding social capital arises within fairly homogenous and close-knit groups. Bridging social capital arises among groups. Bridging capital helps knit together different neighborhoods, different social classes, and different subcommunities as they may be defined by age, religion, ethnicity, or culture. Where strong bridging ties exist, people maximize their prospects for exchanging information or developing information collaboratively. No one is expert in everything, but everyone is informed about some things, including their own experience. The public’s diversity of information and perspective can contribute mightily to a community’s sense of shared identity and collective knowledge. When people engage across group lines, they share the diverse levels of information that all citizens possess. They inevitably strengthen a community’s capacity for problem solving.
When people engage across group lines, they . . . strengthen a community’s capacity for problem solving . . . . What follows from disengagement . . . is ignorance, misunderstanding, and higher levels of social conflict. What follows from disengagement is the flip side of these community assets. Instead of trust, there is alienation. Instead of cooperation, there is indifference. Instead of knowledge, there is ignorance, misunderstanding, and higher levels of social conflict. People do not contribute to the larger community because they do not feel a part of it. They potentially suffer not only as citizens, in their public role, but as private individuals as well. They have less information about available opportunities. They have fewer connections to address issues in their own lives. There is even evidence that reduced social capital can be injurious to personal health.58
The Report of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy