Social Capital and the Duluth Community School Collaborative
by Angel Nustad-Peluso
“Social capital, also known as ‘community connectedness,’ refers to social networks and the trust and reciprocity that arise from these networks. Studies show that communities with high levels of social capital are likely to have higher educational achievement, better performing government, faster economic growth, and less crime and violence. People in these communities are also likely to be happier, healthier, and have a longer life expectancy.” - Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation
The Duluth Community School Collaborative works to have an impact on communities including and beyond increasing educational success. We strive to create conditions for families and neighbors to develop strong social networks and provide ongoing leadership for the creation of a healthy community.
Here are three examples of how we are working toward increasing social capital for young people and their families in Duluth.
1) The Duluth Youth Agency Coalition (DYAC): the Duluth Community School Collaborative is an active member of our local out of school time network and we support its strategic development through collaborative leadership. “[out of school time youth programs] possess an asset that gives them the ability and opportunity to influence students to develop a belief system that will ultimately impact their academic and social futures--that asset is social capital” - Huang, Coordt, La Torre, et al.
Not only do these programs increase social capital on their own, but in growing and strengthening the network, the Duluth Community School Collaborative is working to exponentially increase their collective impact.
2) Relational community health realization: Together for Health is an innovative, collaborative approach to improving the health and wellbeing of the students, families, and community members of Duluth's Community Schools. In partnership with Generations Health Care Initiatives, this impact area advances health equity through a relational and community-based lens.
Our community health coordinator spends time with families in the community and learns from them in a reciprocal relationship based in trust and growth. Bringing these learnings into regular meetings with school nurses, social workers, counselors, and administrators, as well as our network of accessible healthcare provider partners, we align these assets to help students and families realize their full potential for lasting wellness.
3) Community School Leadership Teams: One of the four pillars of community schools is collaborative leadership structures, including not only school administrators, teachers, and staff, but a variety of cross-sector community partners, grassroots organizers, families, and young people. We host monthly community school leadership team meetings at each of our schools that are welcoming and safe, connecting people across difference, building trust and relationship.
Our community school coordinators are constantly in communication with a wide swath of stakeholders, gathering information and bringing it back to the team in the form of strengths and needs assessments. Alongside the school improvement plan, this relational information guides the community school leadership team as they prioritize and set goals for their collaborative work.
Our relational networks are ever-expanding at the Duluth Community School Collaborative as we work to create the conditions for families and neighbors to develop strong social networks and provide ongoing leadership for creation of a healthy community. Our work with the Duluth Youth Agency Coalition, our relational community health realization project Together for Health, and our community school leadership teams are all great examples of how we invest in building social capital for the benefit of young people and families in Duluth.