With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Equitable Futures initiative, Search Institute is working with several other partners in the larger project known as Social Capital Assessment and Learning for Equity (SCALE). We’re developing and refining useful measures of “social capital” for programs designed to enhance postsecondary and employment opportunities for youth and young adults of color and from low-income backgrounds. After conducting an extensive literature review, we defined “social capital” as the resources that arise from a web of relationships which people can access and mobilize to help them improve their lives and achieve their goals, which inevitably shift over time.

Developmental relationships are thus at the heart of this social capital that enables young people to have the information, mindsets, skills, and human connections they need to pursue and achieve their goals.

Although this relationship-centered work on social capital applies to all youth, it is especially critical for creating equitable futures for historically marginalized youth, as our review shows that youth of color and from low-income communities often do not have the same access to educationally- and occupationally-relevant relationships and resources as more affluent youth do.

Our first phase has been establishing a theoretically-informed framework for the measurement and improvement of social capital, resulting from the comprehensive and rigorous literature review with an emphasis on practical measurement of social capital in programs serving youth and young adults. Our resulting framework is summarized in this infographic:

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