Urban Studies Senior Seminar Papers

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Suggested Citation: April Ognibene. "Social Capital in Power Networks: A Case Study of Affordable Housing Development in Winston-Salem, NC." University of Pennsylvania, Urban Studies Program. 2010.


This research unifies studies on macro- and micro-level relationships regarding changes in city-level partnerships and changes in social capital, or ties between community members. Social capital, a concept popularized by Robert Putnam, is often studied apart from issues of power, but power is a crucial component in other constructions of the term (most notably, the work of Pierre Bourdieu). This study uses Putnam’s conceptualization of social capital by using the survey instrument he commissioned, the Social Capital Benchmark Survey (SCBS), to measure social capital across communities. However, this study embeds this data in a city’s power relations, using interviews and document review to determine how relationships and partnerships changed among the city’s powerful. Winston-Salem, NC provides an ideal case study due to its moderate-city size and local investments to grow social capital. The city is studied over two years, 2000 and 2006, for general changes in social capital, intra-sector changes, and diversity within the affordable housing industry. Ultimately, the research suggests that overall growth in social capital will produce more productive partnerships among the powerful, and that sectors governing the spaces with social capital growth will obtain more control and leverage in their partnerships. Weaknesses in social capital, which for Winston-Salem include measures of intolerance, can be noticed within cross-sector relationships as well. The research suggests that changes in social capital are manifested at the leadership level, however increasing social capital in Winston-Salem only strengthened the existing power hierarchies in place, and did little to increase community involvement in decision making.



Date Posted: 12 April 2011