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Morris, M. (2010). The challenges of creating social capital and increasing community participation in a diverse population: Implications for theory, policy and practice based on a case study of a Canadian housing co-operative

This is a case study about building social capital and increasing community participation across barriers of income, race, ethnicity, language, immigration status, physical and mental health and ability, age, family status, gender and sexuality. The Shefford Heritage Housing Cooperative in Ottawa, Ontario provided the ideal environment. It is a mixedincome social housing project in which the residents were diverse in all these different ways.
The study used multiple methods: participant-observation over a period of five years, indepth interviews with 25 out of 48 Shefford members, 10 key informant interviews, quantitative demographic and participation data, document analysis of Shefford by-laws and minutes, and policy analysis of the Ontario Social Housing Reform Act and related City of Ottawa regulations.
One of the study’s contributions to social capital theory is that shared norms should not be a goal, as it is impossible in urban, industrialized societies for everyone to share exactly the same norms, nor is it desirable. Often people who are marginalized are simply expected to adapt to majority norms, which causes tension. Instead, community-based, free conflict resolutions mechanisms and public education promoting communication skills can act as bridges of understanding.

Another conclusion is that issues of power, oppression and internalized oppression matter in social capital formation. The impediments to building social capital are not diversity, as claimed in the literature, but rather racism and other forms of negative judgments and structural exclusion that have a negative socioeconomic impact on certain groups. This study proposes the notion of status capital as a subset of social capital. When judging whether to trust others or engage in or deepen a relationship with someone, the other person’s status capital is in play, that is, how valuable the person’s apparent socioeconomically salient characteristics are judged to be.
The study reaches seven other conclusions and makes recommendations for specific public policies that would promote social capital formation, particularly in the areas of housing and early childhood care and education. The study also proposes reforms for the Ontario co-operative housing movement for housing co-ops to fulfill their potential to create and sustain social capital among their diverse members.

Author

Morris, Marika

University

Carleton University, School of Canadian Studies

Carleton University developed Canada’s first Institute of Canadian Studies more than 40 years ago. Since its inception, the program, like Canada, has continually reinvented itself to incorporate new knowledge and new approaches in order to understand the creative tensions that diversity...

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