What actually IS Social Capital, and what does it mean to me?

The quick definition is that Social capital refers to the relationships, trust and support we have for each other. These are the kinds of things that we typically describe as intangibles and hard to measure. Yet when you ask most people, they can tell you how it feels when these things are present or absent in their lives, neighborhoods and communities. We know that social capital is critical to a good quality of life, a healthy population, safe streets, and economic prosperity.

This was part of the motivation for the first ever benchmarking study to gather data on a city like Toronto, which gives the community, funders, policy makers etc. a unique understanding to guide their work. With Toronto Foundation and Environics leading this work, the most recent Toronto’s Vital Signs report has been dedicated to telling the story of Social Capital in Toronto, through its neighborhoods.

Through the findings in this first-ever Toronto Social Capital Study, we hope to better understand how we can support neighbourhood resilience in the face of increasing stresses. It will help us understand how the connections and relationships we have with one another shape our private and public lives.

As you go through the report, think about how you would respond to some of the questions in this study. What is your own experience of social capital and how is it playing out in your participation and community?