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Our Community: Assessing social capital

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Our Community: Assessing social capital

Overview of the Our Community tool

Rural communities have a history of thriving because of the ties among people who live and work there. How can these ties be used and strengthened in modern times, when new economics and demographics have changed rural life?

A community can start by looking at its strengths. The positive effects of community ties have recently been identified in both community development practice and research. The term "social capital" was coined by social scientist James Coleman to describe these ties, and Robert Putnam furthered and popularized this research in his book Bowling Alone.

Assessment tools can help communities get an accurate picture of the ties among its people and organizations. Our Community was designed by the University of Minnesota Extension, in collaboration with Yellow Wood Associates especially with rural communities in mind, building upon rural strengths and assessing conditions specific to rural culture. As communities look at the future, findings from an Our Community survey can focus their efforts – using an accurate picture of what is going on when its people and organizations work and live together.

Who can use this tool?

What types of questions can the tool answer?

Using Our Community in Minnesota

In Minnesota, sponsoring organizations can work with a Leadership and Civic Engagement Educator to administer the tool and analyze the results for their community. Trainings helps communities successfully recruit diverse survey participants and implement the survey. After the survey is administered, a Community Report is generated, summarizing findings from each area of measurement. The Extension Educator can present the summary and facilitate discussion about the implications of the survey findings.

Look at the Social Capital Reports from communities who have completed the assessment process:

For more information about using the tool in Minnesota, contact: Jody Horntvedt, 218-463-0296 or

Purchasing Our Community for use in other states

Non-Minnesota organizations can purchase either an annual license to print an unlimited number of surveys themselves, or to purchase packages of surveys from the University of Minnesota Extension. Organizations can also receive coaching or training from the University of Minnesota Extension staff to support successful administration of the tool. A template of the report is provided with the license agreement. This analysis can be prepared by the sponsoring organization or through a contract with the University of Minnesota or Yellow Wood Associates.

For more information about the survey tool, licensing agreements or acquiring survey forms, call or email:
Joyce Hoelting

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