Thursday, March 31, 2016

Social Capital

I attended a professional development workshop some time ago about culturally responsive teaching. One of the modules was on social capital. Social capital, by definition is the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively. During that module, the facilitator had us write the names of everyone we know, who they know, and what they know. It was an exercise to illustrate just how much social capital each of us had. After the workshop was finished I simply put my paper aside and never thought about it again until a few weeks ago.

A friend of mine who had read my latest novel contacted me and said she had another author friend from Grenada who was visiting the US and she wanted to do some kind of literary event in this area, preferably a joint author event. So I started looking into it and looking around for places to host the event. It had to be low budget, because as struggling authors, our budgets weren’t big. We knocked around all kinds of ideas and then we thought about the Grenadian Association in the area. That’s when I remembered that my husband’s cousin’s husband was from Grenada and was in some way connected to the Grenadian association. I called him. He put me in touch with some people, and to cut a long story short, The Grenadian Embassy hosted a night of literary conversation featuring two Grenadian authors and two Kittititian authors including myself. 

In the course of the planning someone reached out to The St. Kitts/Nevis Association and the event turned out into a wonderful Caribbean literary event with diplomats from Grenada, St. Kitts and Dominica and quite a few supporters. It was wonderful. I made new connections, I rekindled old connections and I sold books. Some of these new and rekindled connections have put me in touch with other people for planning other literary events.

One of the places I initially contacted when my friend first proposed the joint event was the Enoch Pratt Free library. But they couldn't plan an event on such short notice. However, they suggested doing a Literary Event during Caribbean American History Month (June) featuring local Caribbean authors. I agreed and so have several other authors from the Caribbean diaspora.

Now I reflect on the events of these past weeks, I realize that was social capital in its purest form. The friend who has little to do with writing, my husband’s cousin’s husband who knew people, the people I met who put me in contact with other people… you get the point. You don’t necessarily have to know people in high places, but knowing people who know people who are experts at other things that is social capital.

Come to think of it, this week marks the second year that we are doing the Journey into the Cell workshop as part of the STEM in Spring at Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore. This came about using social capital. A few years ago a co-worker introduce me to a children’s book author and researcher who introduced me to the people at Port Discovery, who invited me and my co-author Lynelle to do a workshop based on the Children’s novel “Zapped Danger in the Cell.” They invited us back again this year, quite an honor. So yes, I realize I do have a lot of social capital. And you do too, you just have to utilize it. 


Charles Gramlich said...

Social capital is a good way to think of it. I need to give that some consideration.

Liane Spicer said...

Interesting approach to the whole networking thing, Jewel. I've been thinking of network in terms of writing and publishing people, but you've shown that it goes way beyond that and overlaps in all sorts of interesting ways.

Yay for STEM 2!