Trust and Social Capital



Mairi MackayDirector of Society, British Council in East Asia

Alastair WilsonChief Executive, School for Social Entrepreneurs




Trust and community both have far-reaching implications for many domain in public policy, from housing to health to happiness.

Social capital is a term created to describe levels of trust and networks within communities, and in recent years social enterprises have played a key part in supporting and generating social capital.  This session will be exploring these ideas further and debate what the future will hold for social capital and enterprise.



Alastair Wilson  Backing social change – who are the winners?

PowerPoint Presentations:



Session summary:


1. Why are organisations not taking enough account of social value?

There were three distinctive reasons given for why organisations are not taking enough account of social value; firstly, there has been a paradigm shift in international development which means that the current, traditional economic ways of funding, donating and receiving money are no longer effective.

Secondly, in social, economic and political thought generally there is a fairly static, rigid approach to thinking of the market in terms of the three ‘sectors’ – private, public and voluntary/community. In fact this may well prevent innovation and collaboration between the sectors because it leads to a ‘stereotyping’ of function.

Finally, competitive economics can obstruct real progress because of the culture it embodies. The ‘competitive’ aspect of the current economic paradigm leads to static, hierarchical management structures, defining success through measuring products and outputs only, using closed control systems, and the propagation of a myth that measurement is ‘objective’. In fact, there is no such thing as objective measurement; even the financial standardised way of measurement is based on subjectivity. The objectivity myth is damaging because it is used to justify authority. The narrow definition of success also leads to organisations to back “winners” in order to compete – whilst this may make sense when the goal is to maximise profit margins, when the objective is social value it becomes more questionable.


2. What’s the solution?

In order to overcome this competition and meritocratic style of economics, power needs to be devolved on different criteria; rather than one of ‘merit’, power needs to become more grassroots. This will enable people who have a vested interest in creating innovative, workable solutions to social problems to become the ones to create them.

A second solution is to break down the walls between the 3 traditional sectors to co-create a collaborative delivery model. Some organisations in the UK are starting on this path, and SROI is a cross sector community which is in a good position to explore this journey.

A final solution is to develop a model for collaborative economics, as opposed to competitive economics. This would mean an economics which centres around sustainability, humanity, equality and subjectivity.


3. What’s your organisation doing?

School for Social Entrepreneurs is using a practical approach to learning and a grassroots style of engagement to work towards a more devolved power system and increase awareness of social entrepreneurship as a mainstream, clear career path.

 Speaker Discussion Points:

Hugo responded to some initial questions before the conference.  See below for his answers:

  1. Why are organisations not taking enough account of social value? Organisations exist in pressurised, competitive markets. Therefore they are incentivised to back “winners” in order to compete and survive. This makes sense in the commercial world, where financial return is the primary objective, but is more questionable where the objective is social value.  
  2. What’s the solution? Devolving power – we need to get people that understand (and have a vested interest in) the problems to author the solutions. That way the solutions will be fit for purpose, popular and authentic. We therefore need to apply a different lens of merit to those we back to create social value. In other words, the solution lies at a grassroots level and not within the traditional model of meritocracy.
  3. What is your organisation doing? We are backing social entrepreneurs, and using small grants and an approach to “learning by doing” which tackles both personal growth needs and project development. Our approach allows us to target the least privileged who we believe have a unique insight into social value solutions that will work.
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