The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

The Development of Social Capital for Organizations in Community Disaster Management

Thursday, January 17, 2013: 4:00 PM
Marina 5 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Li-Wen Liu, PhD, Associate Professor, Tunghai University in Taiwan, Taichung City, Taiwan
Purpose: In the past few decades, the natural disaster, including earthquake, flood, drought, hurricane, has taken place everywhere around the world. It took millions of lives and caused enormous loss, including home damages, financial losses, and business hardships. The issues regarding natural disaster has increasingly been most challenging aspect confronting human beings.

Past disaster experiences show community disaster management requires local organizations’ involvement. Increasing community capacities by the local organizations' joint efforts has become a promising way to minimize the effect of natural disasters on our community. Specifically, studies indicate that social capital has a great potential for organizations to create resources that facilitates capacities of communities in reducing the disaster hazard. However, the concept of social capital is somewhat diverse in the emphasis in this field. The purpose of this paper aims to (1) identify the dimensions and components of social capital, (2) develop an instrument appropriate to the measurement of social capital for community disaster management, (3) explore the role of social capital for local organizations in community disaster management

Method: Two focus groups with 19 representatives from community organizations that had been heavily involved in community disaster management were conducted. In addition, in-depth interviews were conducted with 7 key informants in communities. Using those data, this study first traces the strategies and processes of two communities, which had been severely hit by natural disasters and have gone through long-term reconstruction processes, for developing the dimensions and components of social capital. Secondly, using confirmatory factor analysis with 175 local organizations from two communities, this research develops a measurement instrument of social capital that is appropriately to capture the concept of social capital in disaster management. Finally, this paper predicts community capacities on disaster preparedness using the concept of social capital.

Results: The analyses identify 4 important dimensions with 18 items that capture the concept of social capital for disaster management, including: (1) community engagement; (2) community cohesion, (3) social networks in community; and (4) social trust. As hypothesized, regression analyses showed that geographical discrepancy in identifying elements of social capital. It also revealed that organizational characteristics, such as financial bases, significantly predicted social network (standardized beta = .20, p=.008) and community engagement (standardized beta = .38, p=.000) as components of social capital in community in disaster preparedness.

Implications and conclusions: this research suggests that developing “social capital” is one of the most effective strategies for local organizations to minimize the effect of natural disasters on our community. In addition, disaster management requires community organizations’ involvement. This study indicates that formulating a conceptual framework of social capital for organizations in community disaster management needs to take geography and organizational characteristics into account. In particular, when local organizations are confronted by a natural disaster, it may avail itself of already existing social capital as an emergency response measure. Finally, this study also discusses its stages for building multi-sector collaboration from a network approach to construct a community disaster management system.