Topic: Even the best concepts could fail – The role of local social capital for the success of care farming
keywords: social farming, social capital, social networks
Whenever care farms are implemented much more attention is given to economic and organisational topics than to the surrounding social and natural environment. This point appears quite astonishing since care farms work with human beings some of them belonging to fringe groups which run the risk to be socially excluded or treated with hostility by the local community, notably drug addicts, ex-convicts, refugees etc. A negative response could lead to a failure while on the other hand care farms could also better thrive under dense and supportive local social networks. Social capital theory, which was initially introduced by Bourdieu (1986) and further elaborated by Coleman (1988), Putnam (1993, 2000) and others, refers to connections among individuals, i.e. social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from these. In that sense social capital is closely related to what some have called civic virtue. The amount of social capital revealed in networks of reciprocity, honesty, trust and tolerance relies on interdependencies between socioeconomic development and traditions of civic involvement. Social capital allows citizens to resolve collective problems more easily. Joiners also become more tolerant, less cynical and more empathetic towards those who are less fortunate, and thus also more tolerant of vulnerable social groups. Thus, social capital might prove to be a key success factor for social farms.
The presentation will discuss the results from an Austrian study exemplified by a care project for elderly people on family farms. Causes and mechanisms accountable for success and failure are analysed. The findings suggest that actors should recognise local social capital more clearly when establishing new care farms. After all, even the best idea could fail if carried out in the wrong place at a wrong time.