I have been a student of social capital theory for many years. After being exposed to the concept in the early-90's, I have been looking at its application as it relates to folks with disabilities. We know that many people with disabilities have marginally less social connections and over the years have been trying to understand why this is and more...how to change this reality.
I know in my own family experience growing up with a cousin who had downs syndrome, as well as supporting my dad after his diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease, that limited relationships, as well as the loss of relationships created real vacuums for them. And in my work with CLASS (formerly UCP) these similar relationship voids were (and are) constant and present.
As I began to write and speak about the importance of relationships for people with disabilities, I began to find that this challenge didn't just apply to them. I started to frame the concept more from a personal focus and asked audiences to think about the relationships in their own lives. This not only helped people appreciate the impact of the concept, but also see its relevance more broadly.
Now more and more groups, interested in a variety of community concepts, are starting to appreciate the tie in of social capital and better outcomes or impact to them. Community action groups, mental health advocates, gerontologists, educators, politicians, criminal justice advocates, children's programs, and on and on, have begun to open their thinking on the impact of relationships to their agenda.
Certainly the key to better outcomes, regardless of the emanation of issues, is found in people connecting with people and the building of social capital. Indeed, everyday people, who might not be struggling with any particular issue can find their lives enhanced through the outcomes of social capital. It is a universal concept that we should all strive to get better at in our course of lives.