Howard Stoller, the Chair of the Council of Albany
Neighborhood Associations (CANA,) opened the Neighborhoods Work conference
by explaining the idea of social capital. Based on Mr. Stoller's
Welcome, I’m Howard Stoller, the Chair of the Council of Albany
Neighborhood Associations, more commonly know as CANA, and want to
welcome you to the 7th Neighborhood Works Conference. And thank you
for spending your Saturday morning with us. I hope that you will
find it worthwhile.
CANA is a non-partisan organization, which participates fully in
matters that affect the quality of life of its constituents. We do
not endorse individual candidates for public office or support any
political party. CANA was formed as a means for dealing with issues
that overlapped neighborhood boundaries. We focus attention on the
issues of concern to neighborhood associations and to provide a mechanism
on how to deal with these issues.
CANA’s activities have encouraged residents to form associations
to deal with problems in their neighborhoods. CANA’s mission
statement – What is good for the residents of Albany’s
neighborhoods, is good for the vitality, well being and growth of
the entire community. Our monthly meetings, almost always on the
first Wednesday, of each month, except for July and August, are from
7 to 9, at the Albany Public Library, and have become a forum for
community members to present at and where City officials tell us
what’s going on. The next is Wednesday, Dec. 6. Terry O’Neill
will be speaking on Community Crime prevention.
With this conference’s focus on the Re-Capitalize Albany,
I thought it would be appropriate to talk about how CANA and other
similar organizations constitute the social capital of a community.
social capital is an idea put forth by Robert Putnam in his book
Bowling Alone, the Collapse
and Revival of the American Community.
What is social capital? Whereas physical capital refers to physical
objects and human capital refers to the properties of individuals,
social capital refers to connections among individuals – social
networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise
Robert Putnam explains why social capital is important. First, social
capital allows citizens to resolve collective problems more easily.
Second, social capital greases the wheels that allow communities
to advance smoothly. Where people are trusting and trustworthy, and
where they are subject to repeated interactions with fellow citizens,
everyday business and social transactions are less costly.
A third way is which social capital improves our lot is by widening
our awareness of the many ways in which our fates are linked. People
who have active and trusting connections to others – whether
family members, friends, or fellow CANA members – develop or
maintain character traits that are good for the rest of society.
Joiners become more tolerant, less cynical, and more empathetic to
the misfortunes of others. When people lack connection to others,
they are unable to test the veracity of their own views, whether
in the give or take of casual conversation or in more formal deliberation.
Without such an opportunity, people are more likely to be swayed
by their worse impulses.
There are concrete benefits associated with social capital. In high
social capital areas public spaces are cleaner, people are friendlier,
and the streets are safer. Traditional neighbourhood “risk
factors” such as high poverty and residential mobility are
not as significant as most people assume. Places have higher crime
rates in large part because people don’t participate in community
organizations, don’t supervise younger people, and aren’t
linked through networks of friends.
A growing body of research suggests that where trust and social
networks flourish, individuals, firms, neighbourhoods, and even nations
prosper economically. Social capital can help to mitigate the insidious
effects of socioeconomic disadvantage.
There appears to be a strong relationship between the possession
of social capital and better health. "As a rough rule of thumb,
if you belong to no groups but decide to join one, you cut your risk
of dying over the next year in half. If you smoke and belong to no
groups, it’s a toss-up statistically whether you should stop
smoking or start joining." Regular club attendance, volunteering,
entertaining, or church attendance is the happiness equivalent of
getting a college degree or more than doubling your income. Civic
connections rival marriage and affluence as predictors of life happiness.
Here is a survey to measure your own social capital. How many of
your neighbors' first names do you know? How often do you attend
parades or festivals? Do you volunteer at your kids' school, or help
out senior citizens? Do you trust your local police? Do you know
who your U.S. senators are? Do you attend religious services, or
go to the theater? Do you sign petitions? Or attend neighborhood
meetings? Do you think the people running your community care about
you? Can you make a difference? How often do you visit with friends
So, if we wanted to recapitalize Albany’s Social capital,
maybe we could inventory those organizations that constitute the
social capital of Albany. Maybe sponsor a Social Capital Day to celebrate
these organizations. We could also consider supporting these social
Right now the City supports social capital at CANA by providing “in-kind” services,
since its high-level officials are regular participants at our meetings,
including the Mayor by presenting his annual State of the City Address
in Albany. We have also gotten grants from the Albany Housing Authority.
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