The eight forms of community wealth, Part 6: Political capital
There are eight forms of community wealth that, when working together, enhance economic development in rural communities. This article focuses on one of those forms: political capital.
In a previous article we discussed WealthWorks, a program provided through Yellow Wood Associates. The WealthWorks approach incorporates eight forms of community wealth to holistically address economic development in rural communities. The sixth form of community wealth is political capital.
Political capital is a community’s power and goodwill held by individuals, groups and/or organizations that can be held, spent or shared to achieve desired ends.
Political capital is evidenced by the ability of an individual or a group to influence the distribution of resources within a social unit, including helping set the agenda of what resources are available. Investments in political capital are made through inclusive organizing that includes information gathering and dissemination, and increasing voice, access to and inclusion among decision-makers. Engaging players throughout a given value chain for mutual self-interest can build political capital.
Earnings from investments in political capital include increased influence in decision-making, increased access to and control over other forms of capital, and the ability to engage in reciprocal relationships, among others. Political capital can affect how rural areas are viewed in a regional context. Regions where political capital is equitably distributed or shared are typically characterized by leadership that is broad, deep and diverse; that uses research-based evidence to inform decisions; and that welcomes questions, open discussion, public involvement and help from the outside.
A West Michigan team has recently completed their WealthWorks training and has begun project development and implementation, focusing on trails and pathways. A Michigan State University Extension Educator is part of this team, serving in the role of coordinator.
Learn about the other forms of community wealth: