What is community capital?
  • Natural capital
    • Natural resources
    • Services provided for human activity
    • Ability of natural environment to maintain its long-term health
  • Human/social capital
    • Connectedness to people and community
    • Education, skills and health of population
  • Financial/Built capital
    • Manufactured goods, buildings, infrastructure
    • Information resources
    • Credit and debt

Talking Points
  • Natural capital is the natural environment and natural resources of the community
  • Human and social capital are all the people in the community
  • Financial and built capital are all the things that humans have created
  • We need all three types of capital, although usually we think only of financial and built capital
  • We need to live off the interest of our community capital, not use up the principal

Another important term when talking about sustainable communities is community capital. Although we tend to think of money or equipment when someone says the world "capital," in fact, there are three kinds of capital in a community: natural capital, human capital, and financial or built capital.

Natural capital is all the things that nature provides for us, such as raw materials to make clothing, buildings, and food. It also includes the services that nature provides such as air to breathe, protection from UV light, rain to water our crops, and wetlands to filter water and prevent flooding.

(It helps at this point to stop and ask participants to name some elements of natural capital that the community has.)

Human and social capital are the people that make up a community: friends, neighbors, coworkers. An important part of human capital is the connections among people, the way people work together to solve problems or run a community. It includes volunteer efforts and the community's governing structure. Other parts of human capital are the skills and education of the community members and their health.

(Again, ask participants to give some examples of human capital in their community.)

Financial and built capital are the built structures like roads, bridges, and buildings in the community. It also includes the manufactured goods, the information resources, and the credit and debt in the community.

All three types of capital are equally important to a community. All three types of capital need to be managed with care in order to ensure that the community does not deteriorate.

Imagine that someone gave you a million dollars. You could spend that money quickly, or you could invest it at 5% interest per year, earn $50,000 per year for life, and still have a million dollars to pass on to your children and grandchildren. A sustainable community is one that nurtures its natural, human and financial capital so that the community continues to improve. A sustainable community lives off the interest of its community capital instead of using up that capital.
Top of the page Talking points Narrative Training home page
Previous Outline Next
Copyright © 1998 Maureen Hart. All rights reserved.