Friday, 27 July 2007

Flooding and social capital

I came across an interesting article on the floods across the UK recently: "When the waters clear". The articles notes that flooding destroys organisational but not social capital:

"Floods and other disaster destroy physical and financial capital. But not relations between people and their networks - what's often called social capital.

Even truckloads of goodwill can't offset the trauma of being flooded. Indeed, unlike any other form of capital - social capital can actually increase at a time of crisis. People who come together learn the importance of appreciating the value of neighbourly support, often act with greater community spirit in the aftermath of a disaster. All of us can help by encouraging the victims of the flood to look for solutions that will improve their lives instead of looking for someone to blame. Blaming often weakens social capital and undermines the return to "normalcy". Instead of looking for a hidden meaning behind the flood we ought to be focusing on learning the lessons. We now know that floods are normal part of our life. What we have to figure out is how much of our resources we are prepared to devote to minimising their destructive impact on our lives."

Ie it is our reactions to crises like floods, not the floods themselves, that can damage us most.

I guess the same is true in organisations as well. It is a rare organisation that thinks about how it will react to challenges and particular failures in a way that will increase its social capital.