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SOCNET  June 2010

SOCNET June 2010

Subject:

doctoral thesis about trust and social capital in regional networks

From:

Siru Korkala <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Siru Korkala <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 8 Jun 2010 13:01:30 +0300

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (112 lines)

*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****

Hi everybody,
I completed my doctoral thesis with title Appearance of Trust in
Regional Co-operative Networks this spring. Measuring social capital
with Burt's methods is one of the key elements. Unfortunately, the
thesis is in my native Finnish, but in case somebody finds this
interesting, I put the English abstract below. Questions about my
thesis are most welcome.

Best wishes,

Siru Korkala
Research Manager
CIMO, Centre for International Mobility


Abstract

Appearance of trust in regional, co-operative networks

In our times, the value of social networks has been widely
acknowledged. One can say that it is important for private persons to
get networked, whilst it is even a must for companies and
organizations in business life. This doctor's thesis examines three
co-operative regional networks. Networks are located in Western
Uusimaa (Länsi-Uusimaa) region in southernmost Finland, and they had
both public organizations and private companies as participants (later
called ‘players’). Initially, all of them were co-financed from public
funds, and two of them are still operational while writing this. The
main target of these networks has been to act as learning networks.
The learning network stands for an ensemble of research and
development units and workplaces constituting a common forum for
learning. The main focus in this study has been on qualitative and
structural characteristics of the networks, and how they are relating
with intrinsic trust. In addition to the development of trust, it has
been studied, at what level organizational learning within the
networks takes place, and lastly, what kind of factors facilitate the
development of social capital.

The theoretical framework for the study is built on analysing trust
and social capital.  It is a 'mission impossible' to find single
definitions for such major concepts. In this study, from the research
questions' point of view it has been more relevant to concentrate on
the aspects of networking and the relationships between the
participating organizations. The total view in this study is very
network-centric, and therefore those theories which have similar point
of view have been prioritized. Such is the theory about structural
holes by Ronald S. Burt (1992). It has been widely applied; especially
his views on constraints affecting players in networks. The purpose of
this study has not been to create new theories or to analyse and
compare thoroughly the existing theoretical trends. Instead, the
existing theories have provided the study with conceptual tools, which
have been utilized for supporting the empirical results. The aim has
been to create an explanatory case study consisting relevant
discussion on the relationship between the network characteristics and
the appearance of trust.

The conceptual categorization for confidence vs. trust created by
Niklas Luhmann (1979) is another important theoretical building block.
In most cases, co-operation in networks is initiated by people already
trusting in each other and willing to work together. However, personal
trust is not sufficient in the long run to sustain the co-operation
within the network: more abstract systemic trust described by Luhmann
must also emerge. In the networks with different structures and at
different development phases, these forms of trust appear at different
levels. In this study, Luhmann’s systemic trust as a term has been
replaced by the concept of 'trust in network as a system'.

Structural characteristics of a network (density, centrality,
structural holes etc.) have been selected to explain the creation of
social capital and trust. The ability to adapt new information is
essential for the development of social capital. Qualitative analysis
for development phase has been used, and the Learning Network Maturity
Test by Leenamaija Otala (2000) and her work have been applied. Thus,
the qualitative characteristics and the structural characteristics of
the networks are utilized together, when the creation of social
capital and appearance of trust are assessed.

Social Network Analysis, questionnaires and interviews have been the
research methods. Quantitative and qualitative data have been
combined. There is a similarity in viewpoints to research data with
Extensive Case Study method, in which different cases are searched by
exploring various cases and comparing certain common features between
them and generic models.

Development of trust, social capital and organizational learning has
been explained in the study by comparing the networks in hand. Being a
case study, it doesn't have targets to provide with general results
and findings like conventional surveys. However, in this work
phenomena and mechanisms related to them are interpreted from the
empirical data.

Key finding of this study is that the networks with high structural
equality and clear target setting enable building trust to the network
as a system. When systemic trust is present, e.g. changes in personnel
involved in the co-operation won't hinder the network from remaining
operational. On the other hand, if the players are not well motivated
to co-operate, if the network is extremely centralized structurally,
or if the network has players holding very much more beneficial
position compared to the others, systemic trust won't develop: trust
tends to remain at the personal level, and is directed to some players
only. Such networks won't generate results and benefits to its
players, and most probably they won’t live very long. In other words,
learning networks cannot solely be based on willingness to learn, but
also on willingness to co-operate.

_____________________________________________________________________
SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social
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