Do NGOs Build Social Capital? A Comparative Case Study of Two Villages in Zanzibar
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The role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as the main vehicle of development in developing countries has often been justified because of their ability to build social capital at both the individual and community level. The purpose of this study is to assess these claims using both quantitative and qualitative measures of social capital. I am using the World Bank's conceptualization of social capital because of its well-established correlations to various indicators of political, social and economic development documented in many studies carried out across the landscape of developing nations in Asia, Latin America, South Asia and Africa.Field research was conducted in two villages in Zanzibar, Tanzania. I conducted participant observation of development programs undertaken by the NGOs in two rural villages. Additionally, I conducted personal interviews with the NGO employees working in these projects to ascertain how their respective development projects are conceived, implemented and ultimately assessed. I documented the connection between NGO project initiation and implementation practices and resultant levels of social capital formation at the individual and community. To measure the key outcome of social capital formation, I utilized attitudinal surveys (focusing on trust, norms of reciprocation, and adherence to democratic principles of governance), objective counts of memberships, engagement in civil society organizations (social network assessment) and physical manifestations of social capital as observed through community development. This methodology combines sociological and political science approaches to social capital assessment to create a robust measure of this key asset.This study finds that there was no quantitative difference in social capital at the community level between villages which have NGOs that encourage community involvement in project initiation and implementation and those which do not. However, there are qualitative differences in social capital at the community level, but this was not correlated to NGO activity. Additionally, through regression analysis, it was demonstrated that NGO membership does have a relationship to an individual's level of social capital, regardless of NGO activity.