From Participatory Reform to Social Capital: Micro‐Motives and the Macro‐Structure of Civil Society Networks

Published date01 January 2015
AuthorChristopher Weare,Juliet Ann Musso
Date01 January 2015
Juliet Ann Musso is associate professor
and Houston Flournoy Professor of State
Government in the Sol Price School of
Public Policy at the University of Southern
California. She has expertise in state and
local government and has researched civic
engagement and local democratic reform,
intergovernmental policy and management,
budgeting, and performance management.
She holds master’s and doctoral degrees
in public policy from the University of
California, Berkeley.
Christopher Weare is research associ-
ate professor in the Sol Price School of
Public Policy at the University of Southern
California. His most recent research projects
have focused on the applications of social
network analysis to examine the structure
and functioning of civil society. He received
a bachelor’s degree in government from
Harvard University and master’s and
doctoral degrees in public policy from the
University of California, Berkeley.
150 Public Administration Review • January | February 2015
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 75, Iss. 1, pp. 150–164. © 2014 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12309.
Juliet Ann Musso
Christopher Weare
University of Southern California
Abstract: Although a wide-ranging literature explores the favorable ef‌f ects of social capital, it is only relatively recently
that systematic attention has been directed to the manner in which social networks emerge and the consequent impli-
cations for civic engagement and collaborative governance.  is article employs advanced social network statistical
models to examine civic network emergence following a participatory reform in Los Angeles. Findings suggest that
the reform fostered a number of favorable network attributes supportive of democratic participation. At the same
time, subtle but ubiquitous ef‌f ects of socioeconomic sorting had the unintended and undesirable ef‌f ect of elevating
higher- status actors within the emergent civic network.  ese f‌i ndings suggest that macro-level policy interventions are
required to foster the development of ties that promote cross-talk among socioeconomically distinct community groups.
Practitioner Points
Participatory reforms such as community councils create social and political networks by changing the
opportunities and incentives for individuals to connect with one another.
Individual motivations interact with emergent social relationships and, over time, shape the ultimate
character of the network.
In Los Angeles, despite severe obstacles to engagement, the creation of a neighborhood council system
ultimately resulted in a participatory network that was relatively open and inclusionary.
Individual motivations to cluster with like individuals appear to limit the tendency of Los Angeles
neighborhood councils to interact with communities that dif‌f er from them.
To counter the ef‌f ects of socioeconomic sorting, designers of participatory reforms should encourage
“cross-talk” among diverse community organizations through such programs as regional forums and
incentives for inter-regional cooperation.
legislative and administrative decisions (past and
future) to understand more fully their role in
building or depleting our nation’s stock of social
—Robert Putnam, 2005
Separated by almost a century, Mary Parker
Follett and Robert Putnam articulate an
enduring focus on the need to create interme-
diary institutions that support civic discourse and
strengthen engagement of ordinary citizens with elite
decision makers. Such institutional civic innovations
arguably create social capital in the form of networks
that support collective action, promote civic culture,
and facilitate “coming to public judgment” that moves
beyond mass opinion to communicate reasoned
compromises to decision makers (Fung 2004; Putnam
2000; Yankelovitch 1991). Although a wide-ranging
From Participatory Reform to Social Capital: Micro-Motives
and the Macro-Structure of Civil Society Networks
[E]very neighborhood must be organized; the
neighborhood groups must then be integrated,
through larger intermediary groups, into a true
state. Neither our cities nor our states can ever be
properly administered until representatives from
neighborhood groups meet to discuss and thereby
to correlate the needs of all parts of the city, of all
parts of the state.
—Mary Parker Follett, 1918
Government and elected of‌f‌i cials must help revive
and support intermediary institutions linking
citizens to the state; . . . provide incentives for
citizens to discuss how to make public agencies
work better; . . . foster innovative programs to
reward civic participation and make it habit-
forming; f‌i nance local ef‌f orts to use technology for
networking and community building; and review

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