The eight forms of community wealth, Part 8: Cultural capital

There are eight forms of community wealth that, when working together, enhance economic development in rural communities. This article focuses on one of those forms: cultural capital.

In a previous article we discussed WealthWorks, a program provided through Yellow Wood Associates. The WealthWorks approach incorporates eight forms of community wealth to holistically address economic development in rural communities. The eighth form of community wealth is cultural capital.

Cultural capital is a community’s social assets that bond a community together and promote social mobility. Cultural capital influences the ways in which individuals and groups define and access other forms of capital. Cultural capital includes the dynamics of who we know and feel comfortable with, what heritages are valued, collaboration across races, ethnicities and generations, etc.

Investments in cultural capital create or sustain the values, traditions, beliefs or language that become the currency to leverage other types of capital. Investments in cultural capital could include support for venues to show­case cultural achievements, programs to preserve and pass on cultural knowledge and skills, and support for cultural transformations, among other things. “Income” from investments in cultural capital may include increased “buy-in” to institutional rules and shared norms of behavior, strengthened social capital and increased access to other capitals through increased visibility and appreciation of cultural attributes and through cultural transformation, e.g. acquisition of language skills.

Cultural capital is sometimes viewed as a subcomponent of social capital and not necessarily an independent form of community wealth because culture is expressed through the values, behaviors, and ownership patterns associated with the other seven forms of wealth. Where specific aspects of culture are critical to wealth creation, they can be defined and measured in relation to other aspects of wealth. For example, if a language or a craft is a critical form of wealth for a community, it can be defined and measured as a form of individual, intellectual and/or social capital. If shared savings is an existing or desired cultural norm, it can be mea­sured as part of financial capital.

A West Michigan team has recently completed their WealthWorks training and has begun project development and implementation, focusing on trails and pathways. A Michigan State University Extension Educator is part of this team, serving in the role of coordinator.

Thank you to Yellow Wood Associates who provided permission for use of their materials. To learn how to register for upcoming WealthWorks training programs, contact Yellow Wood Associates.

Learn about the other forms of community wealth:

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