How much does money actually matter to making the change you want to see in the world? Whether you're a funder or a social entrepreneur, chances are you spend a lot of your time and energy focused on how best to deploy money in service of your vision. There's no question that money can matter a great deal in the work of social change, but are there other resources that matter even more?
In this post we are going to take stock of 8 forms of capital that you can draw on, whatever the change is that you want to make in the world.
As a starting point, Wealthworks, a project of the Aspen Institute, that is focused on fostering regional economic development has developed a very helpful framework when it comes to thinking creatively about the different kinds of assets that go into economic development.
It is helpful to draw on this framework to think even more broadly about the eight different forms of capital we have the potential to use as change agents. As you think about each of these forms of capital, ask yourself on a scale of 1-10, how important is this form of capital to my work as a change agent? And how would I rate my level of access to this form of capital on the same 1-10 scale? You may find in doing this exercise that there are some important resources that you have been taking for granted in your work, perhaps because you have such ready access to them you don't even think about them as assets anymore. And likewise, if you find yourself with not enough access to other critically important resources, that's an invitation to take a step back and think about who does have access to these resources and what it will take to engage them collaboratively (more on that here).
It can also be important to consider the nature of the resources you are relying on the most in your work as a change agent. To what extent are they finite and zero sum--meaning that if one person gets access, someone else necessarily gets less? Are there any resources you can draw on in your change-making work that have the opposite properties (economists call these "anti-rival goods"): meaning that the more you use them, the more valuable and available that same resource is to others? Cultural capital often has this latter property--the more people subscribe to cultural norms that encourage socially beneficial behavior (think mask-wearing in a pandemic), the more everyone in a society stands to benefit. So too with investments you make in learning and personal development for yourself and others. The more you show up as your highest and best self in your work as a change agent, the more you can be a resource to others in their own process of change and growth.
So where do the eight forms of capital fit when it comes to this classification of assets? It depends on the specific circumstances in your particular field, but looking at the chart below can be a helpful reminder that while money likely matters a lot in your work as a change agent, some of the other forms of capital may have special properties for accelerating change that you don't want to overlook!
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These are the same materials we use with the social entrepreneurs in our accelerator program and the funders we coach one on one. The world has never been more in need of a new, greatest generation of change agents and that's why we're opening up free access to these materials to anyone who's ready to make use of them!