Dear Harry:

I'm wondering what your assumptions are about what constitutes social capital. Would you be willing to chat about that?


Patricia Sachs

Dear SOCNETters,

I am doing research on the social capital of groups of individuals who work together.  My study focuses on Episcopal Church vestries, which are governing boards for individual congregations.  My theoretical framework ties network closure and cohesion with regard to (1) ideological agreement and (2) the extent of friendly and long-lasting ties among group members to group-level social capital, and then ties group-level social capital to group performance.  I'm hoping that the subscribers to the listserv might be willing to help me with a couple of questions:

1.  The vestries have 8-15 members each.  To do whole-network/vestry/group measures I obviously need a high response rate from each network/vestry/group.  The data is quite sensitive and somewhat difficult to collect.  From a research standpoint, is there a minimum number of groups needed to do meaningful cross-group comparisons?  How do you account for non-respondents in data analysis?

2.  Another data-collection idea is to ask individual vestry members questions like "Who agrees with each other with regard to theology?" and ask respondents to assess whether member A agrees with members B, C, D, etc (and B with C, D, etc.)--and so respondents would assess such agreement for every possible dyad within the group.  (Member A would be the respondent, allowing for ego-centric measures as well.)  Have other researchers tried this sort of approach?  Is it a valid way of gathering data about the social structures of a particular group?  And finally, has anyone studied whether one's position within a particular group affects his or her responses to such questions (for example, do more central or more isolated people differ in some sort of predictable way in their perceptions about who is connected to who in the group?)?

I'm grateful for any advice you can provide.  Thanks in advance--

Harry Van Buren
Doctoral student, University of Pittsburgh (Katz Graduate School of Business)
Visiting Instructor, University of Northern Iowa
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Work Systems Innovation & Design
Patricia Sachs, PhD
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