I remember when some NGOs involved in farmers markets begin to use the term social capital a decade or more back to describe the benefits that markets extend to their community. Some partners raised their eyebrows when we used it, while others enthusiastically agreed and assisted markets in describing it and measuring it. Florida’s work was extremely helpful in that process.
Increasingly, the research shows that understanding and growing social capital is vital for entrepreneurial activity to flourish in lieu of a defined network. For rural and/or new farmers, this may be why the farmers market movement is necessary to their business planning, even with food hubs and other outlets wanting their products.
But new research shows there’s clearly more to the story than just individual skill, pluck, and ambition. The study, by Temple University’s Seok-Woo Kwon, the University of Missouri’s Colleen Heflin, and Duke University’s Martin Ruef, examines the relationship between self-employment levels and community support structures across America’s metro areas. Published in the December issue of the American Sociological Review, the authors argue that the strength of local social networks and trust — using the term “social capital,” popularized by Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam — plays a major role in whether a city is able to foster a culture of self-employment and entrepreneurship.