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The Dynamics of Social Capital and Community Associations in Uganda: Linking Capital and its Consequences

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Social capital does not always promote democratic practices, but has different effects at different points. This dynamic is well characterized by a distinction between bonding, bridging, and linking social capital. This is analyzed through an examination of three community associations in Uganda. In particular, it is shown how linking social capital can negatively impact the association in general, and democratic governance in particular, if not accompanied by sufficient bonding, and bridging social capital.
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The Dynamics of Social Capital and
Community Associations in Uganda: Linking
Capital and its Consequences
KRISTOF TITECA
University of Antwerp, Belgium
and
THOMAS VERVISCH
*
Ghent University, Belgium
Summary. Social capital does not always promote democratic practices, but has different effects
at different points. This dynamic is well characterized by a distinction between bonding, bridging,
and linking social capital. This is analyzed through an examination of three community associa-
tions in Uganda. In particular, it is shown how linking social capital can negatively impact the asso-
ciation in general, and democratic governance in particular, if not accompanied by sufficient
bonding, and bridging social capital.
Ó2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Key words — Africa, Uganda, social capital, community associations, democracy
1. INTRODUCTION
Social capital refers to the networks, and
norms that enable people to act collectively.
Proponents of social capital theory have argued
that the accumulation of social capital is the
missing link to understanding democratic gov-
ernance, and economic development. The dis-
tinction between bonding, bridging, and
linking social capital has brought the analysis
of social capital, and these expected outcomes
a step further. While bonding social capital is
based on exclusive solidarity between ‘‘people
like us,’’ the bridging form of social capital re-
fers to more inclusive solidarity between people
of different backgrounds. Bonding social capi-
tal is more, or less labeled as ‘‘the first step’’
in the process of creating social capital, but it
is the bridging form of social capital that is
highly relevant in relation to the outcomes of
democratic governance, and economic pro-
gress. More recently, emphasis has been made
on the linking form of social capital, that is
the accumulation of linking ties with formal
institutions, and individuals in positions of
power. The underlying idea is that ‘‘there is
an optimal dynamic balance of bonding, bridg-
ing, and linking social capital, which simulta-
neously facilitates democratic governance,
economic efficiency, and widely-dispersed hu-
man welfare, capabilities, and functionings’’
(Szreter 2002, p. 580). Community organiza-
tions take a central role in this discussion, as
they are labeled the main ‘‘building blocks’’ to
creating new stocks of social capital. This
article challenges the assumptions about the
positive outcomes of linking social capital
throughanexaminationofUgandancommunity
*The authors would like to thank the anonymous rev-
iewers for valuable comments, and suggestions on an
earlier version of the paper. Kristof Titeca’s research was
financed by the Centre for Third World Studies / Conflict
Research Group, Ghent University (with whom he was
affiliated during the research for this article) and the
‘‘Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek’’ as part of his
Ph.D. research. Final revision accepted: October 4, 2007.
World Development Vol. 36, No. 11, pp. 2205–2222, 2008
Ó2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved
0305-750X/$ - see front matter
doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2007.10.021
www.elsevier.com/locate/worlddev
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associations. It argues that linking social capi-
tal can negatively impact the association in gen-
eral, and democratic governance in particular,
if not accompanied by bonding, and bridging
social capital. Rather than automatically lead-
ing to positive outcomes, linking social capital
can also lead to the disorganization of the
groups.
The first part of this article elaborates a the-
oretical framework on social capital, and com-
munity associations. It is argued how
community associations are characterized by
different, and dynamic combinations of differ-
ent forms of social capital which impact the
democratic character of these associations.
The second part of this paper analyzes these
theoretical premises through three ethno-
graphic case studies of community associa-
tions in Arua, Uganda. In the final section,
we draw some conclusions regarding the im-
pact of linking capital on democratic practices
in community associations. On a more general
level, it offers conclusions on the role of exter-
nal interventions in the creation of social cap-
ital.
2. COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS,
DEMOCRACY, AND SOCIAL CAPITAL
(a) Social capital, and community associations
One of the consequences of the rise of the so-
cial capital debate in the middle of the nineties
was the increased interest in community organi-
zations. This was in particular in response to
the work of Robert Putnam, who defines social
capital as ‘‘the features of social life—networks,
norms, and trust—that enable participants to
act together more effectively to pursue shared
objectives’’ (1995, p. 664–665).
1
Putnam
equates social capital with horizontal organiza-
tions, or more specific with ‘‘networks of civic
engagement,’’ hence the link between the social
capital, and civil society debate. These organi-
zations are labeled as the main ‘‘building
blocks’’ in which new stocks of social capital
occur. Grassroots involvement in community
organizations with face-to-face relationships
lead above all to the ‘‘real’’ social capital (Szr-
eter, 2002). Even Putnam himself admits that
social capital, and these community associa-
tions are so interconnected that it is sometimes
difficult to see which is the chicken, and which
the is egg (Putnam, 2000: 152). Community
organizations are therefore defined as an excel-
lent playground for democracy, through the so-
cial capital they embody, and the democratic
values they promote (Putnam, 1993).
This social capital debate has led to the pro-
motion of community associations in the imple-
mentation of development activities in
developing countries. The World Bank’s Social
Capital Initiative has highlighted the impor-
tance of this debate for developing countries
(Grootaert & van Bastelaer, 2001). The papers
produced through this initiative consider the
relevance of community organizations, and
the social capital they represent for a broad
spectrum of development interventions such
as access to credit, service delivery, natural re-
source management, and community-based
development (Bebbington & Carrol, 2000;
Isham & Ka
¨hko
¨nen, 1999; Ka
¨hko
¨nen, 1999;
Krishna & Uphoff, 1999; Pantoja, 2000; Pargal
et al., 1999; Reid & Salmen, 2000; Sorensen,
2000; van Bastelaer, 2000). What is common
for this broad field of development interven-
tions is the assumption that these organizations
facilitate democratic governance at the local le-
vel. Members learn to create, change, bargain,
and control the institutional settings of their
organization. These internal institutions are
necessary to deter free riders, to cut the costs
of membership, and more in general, to in-
crease organizational efficiency (Ostrom, 1990;
Patterson, 2003). This process of developing
the internal ‘‘rules of the game’’ also facilitates
participation, and accountability, and as such
creates local institutions in which democratic
governance is practiced (Esman & Uphoff,
1984; Putnam, 1993).
(b) Bonding, bridging, and linking capital
In the past ten years, the distinction between
bonding, bridging, and linking social capital
has brought the analysis of social capital a step
further by questioning ‘‘how social networks
differ from one another in ways that are rele-
vant to their consequences’’ (Putnam 2004, p.
668–669). Gittell and Vidal (1998) were the first
to explicitly use the concepts of bonding, and
bridging social capital. While bonding social
capital is based on exclusive solidarity between
‘‘people like us,’’ and only helps people to ‘‘get
by,’’ the bridging form of social capital refers to
more inclusive solidarity between people of dif-
ferent backgrounds, and helps people to ‘‘get
ahead’’ (Briggs, 1998).
In terms of democratic governance, the
bridging form is more productive than the
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bonding form of social capital. Bonding social
capital has an important downside, as it can
lead to more exclusive forms of solidarity based
on kinship, class, ethnicity, religion, and so on
(Portes & Landolt, 1996, 2000; Portes, 1998).
High stocks of bonding social capital can there-
fore, lead to the exclusion of several groups in
society, and even to conflicts between these
groups (Colletta & Cullen, 2000). As bridging
social capital connects people with different so-
cial backgrounds it has the capacity to span
these social gaps, and enhance more inclusive
forms of solidarity (Putnam, 1995, 2000). These
cross-cutting networks traverse social gaps, and
therefore, increase contact with various other
people, supporting tolerance, and preventing
groups from becoming inward focused (Paxton,
2002).
More recently, the work of Woolcock (1998),
and Szreter (2002) introduced the concept of
linking social capital to further refine the con-
ceptual framework. Where bridging, and bond-
ing social capital are mainly horizontal
metaphors, the linking form refers to networks
that connect people across explicit vertical
power differentials. Szreter and Woolcock
(2004, p. 6) gave the following explanation:
‘‘We would define linking social capital as
norms of respect, and networks of trusting rela-
tionships between people who are interacting
across explicit, formal or institutionalized
power, or authority gradients in society.’’
According to the authors, examples of linking
social capital are in the first place related to
accessing bankers, law enforcement officers,
social workers, health care providers, NGO
officials, politicians, and the public administra-
tion in general. As such, the key function of this
linking form of social capital is the capacity to
leverage resources, information, and ideas from
these formal institutions (Woolcock, 2002).
By focusing on bonding, and bridging social
capital as horizontal metaphors, it must not
be forgotten that poverty also has a vertical
dimension. It has been widely shown that pov-
erty is about powerlessness and social exclu-
sion: a lack of ties with political elites, and
people in power to influence those formal insti-
tutions, and policies which influence, and en-
hance the lives of the poor (Bebbington, 1999;
Cleaver, 2005; Fox, 1996; Heller, 1996; Prak-
ash, 2002; World Bank, 2000). Linking social
capital refers to this specific capacity of engag-
ing power structures. Linking social capital is
therefore clearly linked with democratic gover-
nance, as it brings in issues of power, and pol-
itics, and refers in, particular, to the quality of
the relationship between communities, and
their representatives (Szreter, 2002).
(c) Bonding, bridging, and linking social capital
in community associations: basic arguments
This literature on bonding, bridging, and
linking social capital formulates some basic
arguments with regard to which community
associations will succeed in becoming local
democratic institutions, and which not. By
focussing on these arguments, we shift our fo-
cus from the community to the associational le-
vel as our level of analysis.
Firstly, bonding social capital is labeled as
‘‘the first step,’’ as all community organiza-
tions start within their own community. Strong
bonding ties provide the foundation for trust-
ing, and reciprocal relationships between the
members, and as such, facilitate cooperation,
and coordination within the organization
(Saegert, Thompson, & Warren, 2001). Sec-
ondly, without additional bridging ties, these
community organizations can create local
institutions that are closed, hostile to others,
or even corrupt (Portes, 1998). Building net-
works between a diversity of local institutions
within the same community, and enhancing
links with other communities will lead toward
more open, and democratic local institutions
which can speak for the whole community,
as it can bring together neighboring communi-
ties which in the past were divided because of
different interests, and identities (Saegert
et al., 2001). Finally, these organizations need
to create linking social capital. As such, they
will learn to promote community interests in
formal institutions, to participate in public
policy, and to hold accountable their officials.
Szreter (2002) referred back to the British
trade unions of the 19th century, which
evolved from sectional, and apolitical (bond-
ing) toward more inclusive (bridging) organi-
zations before finally receiving the linking
social capital that turned them into an ac-
cepted partner of the formal institutions. On
a general level, these different steps overlap
with the three roles that Browns (1991)
pointed out when looking at the efficacy of
organizations in sustainable development: the
ability to maintain local effort, the ability to
create bridging ties to other organizations,
and the ability to influence politics through
vertical ties. To summarize, the social capital
literature argues that community organizations
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need to transform bonding into bridging ties as
to ‘‘reach out,’’ and create linking ties as to
‘‘scale up’’ the impact of the organization
(Woolcock, 2002). This view therefore entails
the implicit assumptions that firstly, groups
or organizations should have all three types
of social capital, and secondly, that there is a
linear progression from bonding to bridging
to linking social capital. Only in these circum-
stances will organizations reach the optimal
dynamic balance of bonding, bridging, and
linking social capital, and contribute to
democracy, and development.
In the past, considerable efforts have been
made to nuance the positive outcomes of social
capital by pointing out its downsides (Colletta
& Cullen, 2000; Portes & Landolt, 1996, 2000;
Portes, 1998). As already mentioned, this cri-
tique was in the first place a critique of the
downside of bonding social capital, redefining
the positive outcomes of social capital more
specifically as the outcomes of bridging social
capital (Putnam, 1995, 2000). Much less is
known about the possible negative aspects of
the linking form of social capital, which is what
this article aims to address. It specifically seeks
to analyse how linking social capital can nega-
tively affect the functioning of community orga-
nizations in developing countries. In another
context, Putnam (1993) has made considerable
efforts to explain the difference between ‘‘bad’’
vertical patron–client networks that are inte-
grated in the ‘‘amoral familism’’ present in the
south of Italy, and ‘‘good’ horizontal civic net-
works which, according to Putnam, explain the
working of democracy in northern Italy. In
general, vertical networks spanning power dis-
parities are mainly used by the powerful to con-
trol the powerless. Therefore, Putnam (2004)
proposes to distinguish between ‘‘responsive,’’
and ‘‘unresponsive’’ linking social capital. The
‘‘unresponsive’’ form can lead toward nepo-
tism, corruption, and suppression, while
responsive linking social capital has the poten-
tial to nourish respectful, and trusting ties be-
tween communities, and their representatives
within formal institutions (Szreter & Woolcock,
2004).
This article aims to spark this debate by chal-
lenging assumptions about the positive out-
comes of ‘‘linking social capital’’ through an
examination of Ugandan community associa-
tions. In particular, it argues how linking social
capital can negatively impact the democratic
character of these organizations, if not accom-
panied by bonding, and bridging social capital.
We define democracy procedurally, as a deci-
sion-making process in which participation,
and accountability are two key aspects (Patter-
son, 1998). The internal democratic character
of the organization refers to the effective partic-
ipation of the members in the internal decision-
making process, and if, and how they can hold
their leaders accountable, while the external
democratic spill-over effects refer to the extent
to which the association is participating in
broader community policies, and discussions,
and the extent to which the association is play-
ing a role in holding community leaders
accountable. In this sense, both the private,
and public side of social capital are being ana-
lyzed.
Both community associations, and social
capital are defined as context specific, and dy-
namic, in that the contribution which different
organizations make to different forms of social
capital varies by context, and over time (De Sil-
va, Harpham, Huttly, Bartolini, & Penny,
2007). Consequently, the democratic character
of these community organizations cannot be
explained by one particular form of social cap-
ital at one particular moment, but rather by the
optimal, and dynamic combinations of different
forms of social capital that change by context,
and over time (Prakash, 2002; Szreter, 2002;
Woolcock & Narayan, 2000).
To capture these different combinations, and
their dynamic character we present detailed
accounts of three community associations in
the West Nile region in northern Uganda.
Through their life histories we show how they
built bonding, bridging, and linking social cap-
ital, and highlight the role linking social capital
plays in the functioning of these organizations.
We stress that social capital is a process issue,
and that before measuring its impact one has
to understand the causes, and mechanisms of
how social capital is created (Dudwick, Kueh-
nast, Nyhan Jones, & Woolcock, 2006). These
case studies are therefore an ethnographic sup-
plement leading to a deeper understanding of
what the abundance of quantitative surveys
on social capital try to measure. The distinc-
tion between bonding, bridging, and linking
social capital proves to be a relevant frame-
work for guiding research on social capital,
and community organizations. In particular,
it is shown how linking social capital can
negatively impact the association in general,
and democratic governance in particular, if
not accompanied by sufficient bonding, and
bridging social capital.
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3. CASE STUDIES
These findings are based on three case studies
of community associations in the direct vicinity
of Arua town in Arua district in Uganda.
2
Arua is situated in the West Nile region in
North Western Uganda. The town, and its sur-
rounding peri-urban centers have about 85,000
inhabitants. Ethnographic data in the commu-
nity associations were gathered through formal,
and informal interviews, and observations.
3
The case of the OPEC boys demonstrates how
strong bonding, and bridging social capital
can lead to a democratic, and powerful form
of linking capital, whereas the cases of VU-
PEG, and CARYM show how linking capital
can have detrimental effects on the democratic
practices of the organization.
4
(a) The OPEC boys
5
The OPEC boys are a group of men who
started their activities by smuggling fuel from
the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to
Arua town in Uganda, where they sell it. They
are named after the coalition of oil-producing
countries, and are about 300–400 men strong.
The origins of the OPEC boys can be traced
to the period in exile during the first half of the
eighties. With the overthrow of the brutal dicta-
torship of Idi Amin, Obote’s Uganda National
Liberation Army (UNLA) occupied the West
Nile region, and committed many brutalities
in revenge for the atrocities of the Amin regime.
Most of the population fled into exile in Congo,
and Sudan in late 1979, and the early 1980s.
During this period in exile, a few young men
had started selling transit fuel from Kinshasa,
and Kampala. When they returned to their
home areas, they had no education, or assets.
Because of the strategic location near to the
Congo, and Sudan, they became active in the
illegal transborder fuel trade, which was tapped
from transit tankers, or bought in the DRC.
This was especially the case for the Aringa, a
Muslim sub-group of the Lugbara. When they
came back from exile (from 1983 onwards),
their home area, Aringa county, was still pla-
gued by armed conflicts. As a result, many
Aringa came to settle within Arua town. Many
were uneducated, unskilled, and without any
assets. This group of ‘‘unanchored’’ Aringa
youth became the core group of the OPEC
boys: numerous Aringa young men were drawn
into the transborder fuel trade. As there was
much demand for fuel, they soon became very
successful. There was also no petrol station in
the area, which made the local government
authorities tolerate them. Moreover, rebel
groups were still plaguing West Nile, drawing
on the same ‘‘unanchored, uneducated, and dis-
affected former soldiers, and youth’’ (Gersony
1997: 77) as the OPEC boys: if these young
men had not been active in the fuel trade, they
could easily have been drawn into criminal
activities, or even another rebel movement.
Because of their success, they were soon
joined by young men from neighboring dis-
tricts, and other ethnic groups, such as the
Aivu, or the Terrego. Moreover, they soon ex-
panded into other activities, and even started
their own construction firm. Some OPEC boys
stopped selling fuel and started working in this
construction firm, which was headed by engi-
neers who were unemployed but educated
brothers of the OPEC boys. Because of this ra-
pid growth, the organization became divided in
several sub-groups (both within town, and the
surrounding villages), but remained with an
overall OPEC boys structure (‘‘OPEC Arua’’).
All of these groups (both the overarching orga-
nization, and the sub-groups) have a formal
structure with a chairperson, assisted by a
vice-chairperson, treasurer, etc., which conduct
meetings on a regular basis. This formal struc-
ture was one of the factors contributing to
greater trust among the different members,
and member groups: these meetings were not
only used to take ‘‘formal’’ business decisions,
but also to solve conflicts among the different
members, organize community work, and so
on. Moreover, through these meetings, intangi-
ble benefits were provided to the members such
as support for members with financial problems
(e.g., contributing to hospital costs, or school
fees) or assisting members with deaths in their
family.
The OPEC boys are therefore not only seen
as economic actors, they are also seen as social
actors which are respected by the wider local
population. Much of this has to do with the
fact that the OPEC boys regularly represent is-
sues of the wider community to the local gov-
ernment. For example, when the market
authorities decided to introduce a tax for small
restaurants at the market ground, the OPEC
boys played a crucial role in representing the
interests of the women running these restau-
rants. These women felt the tax was far too
high, but the district threatened to confiscate
their utilities if they refused to pay. The women
informed the overall OPEC boys’ leadership
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about their problem. The OPEC boys held a
general meeting (with all the sub-groups) to dis-
cuss the issue, after which it was decided to be a
genuine complaint, as it was seen as a deliberate
attempt by the government to ‘‘strangle peo-
ple’s livelihood, and push them into poverty.’’
6
The OPEC boys leadership went to the market
authorities, who in turn refused to talk with
them. After this, the OPEC boys went to the
district authorities, where they presented their
complaint, and threatened further action such
as creating chaos in town, or stopping fuel
sales.
7
The tax was subsequently abolished.
This example illustrates how the OPEC boys
represent the interests of other groups, and thus
form bridging capital with other groups within
society, through which they are able to influ-
ence the local government. On their own, with-
out the support of the OPEC boys, these
market women do not have much impact on
the local government. The government is not
dependent on them (as they are on the fuel of
the OPEC boys), and they are not organized
into groups with a strict leadership structure.
This latter factor proved to be crucial in linking
up with the district, as the leaders of the OPEC
boys have always been in close contact with the
district authorities. As a result, the district lead-
ership does listen to these women with the sup-
port of the OPEC boys. Also in other cases, the
OPEC boys acted as intermediary between ur-
ban groups (such as the motorcycle, or bicycle
taxi groups, the carwash groups, and other
small businesses), and the local government.
This did not only happen when these groups’
interests overlapped with their own interests.
It rather reflects the strong feelings of solidarity
between all the urban marginalized groups,
including the OPEC boys, who all regard them-
selves as ‘‘survivors.’’ It can therefore be argued
that the OPEC boys are representing the inter-
ests of marginalized sections of society, and
inducing political participation, as the local
government, and the urban community negoti-
ate about certain issues.
The OPEC boys started out of bonding social
capital between a group of Aringa young men
who were trying to survive in exile, and in the
difficult circumstances of their return. As their
activities proved to be very successful, they
were joined by many other unemployed young
men from other ethnic groups, who even came
from surrounding districts. As these unem-
ployed young men had little other possibilities
for employment and were making a good in-
come with the OPEC boys, it was very much
in their interest to make the group function
well. To deal with this expansion in members,
and activities, formal structures were intro-
duced to facilitate the cooperation between
the different sub-groups, and individual mem-
bers. This entailed an increased participation
through regular meetings, in which representa-
tives of the sub-groups attended the general
meetings of OPEC Arua. Through these meet-
ings, decisions were made about the conduct
of individual members, the allocation of re-
sources, and the representation of wider com-
munity interests to the local government. The
effect of this expanding bridging capital for
the OPEC boys was what Putnam it envisaged
it to be: networks of trust, and reciprocity were
built in the wider community, in which the local
authorities were held accountable (Putnam,
1993). Crucial in this evolution of the organiza-
tion was their charismatic leader, Kaku. Kaku
already started smuggling goods at young age
while being in exile, and back in Arua, he was
among the first to start smuggling fuel.
Through his expertise, contacts, and charisma,
he was strongly respected, and soon became
the founder of the actual OPEC boys. He was
the most important factor in introducing a
strong discipline among the members, setting
up the organizational structure, expanding to
the other businesses, and attracting members
from other ethnic groups (Kaku himself is a
Terrego, a non-Aringa), and districts. Under
his leadership, the OPEC boys were also pro-
viding different services to the wider urban
community: on a regular basis, they were clean-
ing the streets, providing transport for funerals,
and acting as a community vigilante. Because
of these community services, Kaku, and the
OPEC boys were highly respected among the
wider population.
8
In other words, Kaku
proved to be an important factor in building
both the bonding, and bridging capital of the
OPEC boys.
An additional factor facilitating the forma-
tion of social capital are the general feelings
of marginalization in West Nile (Leopold,
2005). The local population feels they are being
betrayed, and neglected by the current Muse-
veni government, and see the OPEC boys as
‘‘sons of the soil’’ who are taking their rights
into their own hands by creating employment
in the face of strong neglect by the national
government (Titeca, 2006). This does not only
create a feeling of reciprocity, and solidarity
within the wider population in the West Nile,
but also within the OPEC boys, who strongly
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identify with ‘‘being an OPEC boy while being
neglected by the government.’’
9
These already
existing feelings of trust among the OPEC boys
are further enhanced by the illegal nature of the
OPEC boys’ activities, for the simple reason
that their illicit smuggling activities (including
the income derived from these activities) need
higher degrees of trust, and reciprocity than le-
gal activities (Skaperdas 2001, p. 184–187).
This is both the case internally among the
OPEC boys,
10
and externally in their relation-
ship with the wider population, which informs
them about the movement of the government
authorities, and helps them hiding.
This bridging capital—in the sense that rela-
tionships are established with other urban mar-
ginalized groups, and the wider population, but
especially the fact that the OPEC boys provide
employment to a vast group of ‘‘unanchored,
and uneducated young men’’—in turn gives
the OPEC boys linking social capital. The local
government realizes that, although the OPEC
boys perform illicit activities, they provide
employment to a large group of unemployed
marginalized, and therefore potentially danger-
ous, young men. In the recent history of rebel
movements in Northern Uganda in general,
and West Nile in particular (cf. Leopold,
2005), they could easily be drawn into criminal-
ity, or even rebellion. The OPEC boys even
provide order to this marginalized group, as
they use their structures to regulate the
(mis)behavior of their members: misconduct is
punished after consultation among the sub-
group executive, which decides on the specific
penalty. For example, during the field research
cases of fighting were penalized either through
financial, or physical punishments (with strokes
of the cane). Alternatively, in case of any com-
plaints, the local government contacts the over-
all OPEC boys leadership, who in turn contacts
the sub-group leadership, who discipline the
culprit.
The local government therefore prefers to
tolerate, and even support the OPEC boys,
and their illicit smuggling activities. It provides
them with financial incentives, or state-spon-
sored development initiatives: they helped sev-
eral OPEC boys sub-groups to officially
register as a Community-Based Organization,
which enabled them to access the World Bank
sponsored Northern Ugandan Social Action
Fund (which essentially aims to build social
capital). With these funds, some of the sub-
groups have started small-scale projects such
as poultry farming. The local government also
helped them to win tenders, for example, to
clean the market, or hospital, and politicians
have negotiated jobs for them with major infra-
structure works in the area. Moreover, in this
privileged position, the OPEC boys act as an
intermediary between urban marginalized
groups, and the local government (as demon-
strated above in the case of the market women).
The specific bridging capital of the OPEC
boys enabled them access to the local govern-
ment authorities, in the sense that the local gov-
ernment authorities tolerated them, and had an
advantage in supporting them. In this context,
the synergy (Evans, 1996a, 1996b) between lo-
cal government and the OPEC boys enabled
the latter to further ‘‘scale up’’ their associa-
tion: it helped them to diversify their activities,
and register as a Community-Based Organiza-
tion, as well as gaining access to the World
Bank (NUSAF) funding.
(b) Vurra patriotic entertainers group
(VUPEG)
‘‘Vurra patriotic entertainers group,’’ or
VUPEG is an association registered as a
Community Based Organization (CBO), Non-
Governmental Organization (NGO), and coop-
erative alliance, based in Vurra sub-county in
Arua district (specifically in Adravu East Vil-
lage, Izuki parish). At the start, its objectives
were purely political: it was founded by the
Minister for housing, and urban development
Dr. Eric T.S. Adriko in support of his 1996 (na-
tional) elections campaign. Under the clear
chairmanship of the Reverend William Avuoye
(hereafter referred to as ‘‘the reverend’’) the
association, consisting of twenty-two (male) of
his staunchest supporters, was doing entertain-
ment throughout Vurra county in support of
the candidature of Dr. Adriko, who had been
a Minister since 1991. Dr. Adriko was clearly
encouraging this, as he was providing the asso-
ciation with financial assistance. As the Consti-
tution puts it ‘‘VUPEG was founded at the
start of the 1996 electoral process for the pur-
pose of giving Patriotic Education to the people
of VURA through traditional media-songs,
plays, folk stories, and dance. It was blessed,
and supported straight at the start by (...)
Hon. Dr. Eric. T.S. Adriko’’
11
. After the
appointment of Dr. Eric Adriko as a second
Deputy Prime Minister, VUPEG expected the
minister to further contribute to the associa-
tion: their keen support in organizing entertain-
ment activities for the Minister can for the most
THE DYNAMICS OF SOCIAL CAPITAL AND COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS IN UGANDA 2211
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part be explained out of the hope to receive
some benefits from the Minister, to get a ‘‘share
of the cake.’’
12
If not direct material, or logis-
tical benefits, at least some indirect benefits, in
linking them up with national or international
donors. None of these proved the case. Instead
the Minister mainly encouraged them to go
their own way in becoming a development
organization, and to write project proposals
to this extent.
In other words, the organization did not
start out of bonding social capital, but out
of linking social capital: there was no associa-
tional form of solidarity, and cooperation to
‘‘get by,’’ but rather an association (under
the clear leadership of one-man) which wanted
to develop itself through linking up to the ‘‘lo-
cal big man.’’ This linking social capital did,
however, not bring them much benefit, as the
VUPEG members were disappointed in the
limited support of the Minister. At this point,
many of the original members left the organi-
zation, because they had expected clear mate-
rial benefits, and were not really interested in
the new developmental orientation of the asso-
ciation. They were, however, replaced by new
members from the wider community, who
were more interested in the developmental
activities of the organization.
With the help of a few educated members
who joined the organization, a democratic
structure was set up (with a board, general
meeting, elections, etc.) and the organization
registered itself as a Community Based Orga-
nization, and Non-Governmental Organiza-
tion.
Also development proposals were written,
which proved to be successful. From 1999 to
2001, VUPEG received funds from the poverty
alleviation program (PAP), a governmental
poverty-reduction program for a microfinance
scheme. The organization further expanded,
and soon became an umbrella organization un-
der which many Community-Based Organiza-
tions registered, and participated in the
activities.
13
Its principal activity became a cas-
sava-multiplication program, supported by lo-
cal intermediary organizations (which in turn
receive funding from a range of international
donors such as GTZ). This cassava-multiplica-
tion proved very successful, to the extent that
VUPEG staff became hired by certain local
government authorities to act as an agricultural
trainer. In other words, ‘‘reaching out’’ to new
members with other, developmental, and non-
political, motivations reduced the exclusive
political character of the organization. Also
the fact that VUPEG became an umbrella orga-
nization increased the inclusion of other groups
in society. This brought bridging capital with
strong positive effects: development partners
were found, democratic structures were in-
stalled, and other organizations within the
wider community shared in the benefits.
After its first attempt to create linking capital
during the 1996 elections, the association tried
this again during the 2001 parliamentary elec-
tions in which they started supporting another
candidate, Simon Ejua. This support was the
individual (undemocratic) decision of the Rev-
erend, who decided this candidate would be
the most beneficial option for the association.
The Reverend, and some other key members
started acting as his local campaign agent, once
more hoping on direct benefits for the associa-
tion. It was however another candidate, And-
rale Avuzu, who was elected. As VUPEG had
been openly campaigning against him, the rela-
tions between Avuzu, who was appointed as a
Minister of state for Transport, and Communi-
cations, and VUPEG were not really amicable.
This also affected the relationship with the sub-
county authorities:
14
as the majority of the
sub-county authorities (as the LCIII chairman,
and councillors) were strong supporters of
Avuzu, they had a negative attitude toward
VUPEG, which they perceived to be connected
with opposition politics, with no other motive
as obstructing the work of the sub-county,
and Minister Avuzu. According to VUPEG,
‘‘Avuzu has no other objective than to fulfill
the personal needs of the sub-county council-
lors,’’
15
while the sub-county authorities claim
the accusations of VUPEG are a simple result
of their powerlessness, frustration, and low le-
vel of education.
As a result of this generally bad relationship,
VUPEG claims that the sub-county authorities
consistently try to sabotage their activities by
not giving out information about programs
they could access, and ignoring their capacities
as agricultural trainers. While VUPEG staff
were at one point being hired as agricultural ex-
perts by the district offices, they are not cur-
rently being hired, or approached by their
own sub-county,
16
which instead is hiring
trainers from other sub-counties.
Throughout its history, VUPEG has continu-
ously been trying to link itself to local politi-
cians, in the hope of attracting certain
benefits. This was particularly the initiative of
the Reverend, who argued that ‘‘the organiza-
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tion has a political background. And therefore,
we will never leave our engagement in poli-
tics.’’
17
This linking capital did not prove very
productive, as the particular politicians either
did not get elected, or lost interest in the asso-
ciation. Instead of bringing material benefits,
it led to negative relations with the local sub-
county authorities with harmful effects for the
development of the organization. From a social
capital perspective, it does not really matter if
the sub-county authorities were really ‘‘boycot-
ting’’ the organization, or not; what does mat-
ter is that there was definitely no synergetic
effects taking place between the organization,
and the local government. This linking capital
also negatively affected the internal democracy
in the association: As the Reverend was both
the founding member, and above all the person
responsible for connecting VUPEG with the
outside world, linking the association with pol-
iticians, and donor organizations, this gradu-
ally led to a situation where he was
considered the principal owner of the associa-
tion, both by himself, and the majority of the
members. This led to several instances where
he was misusing his power position. One prob-
lem was that he occasionally took money from
the organization’s account without informing
the treasurer. Although financial issues should
be handled by the treasurer, the Reverend re-
fused to accept this. For example, at one point,
money was taken to buy stationary for the
association, but only a limited amount of
money was accounted for. There were also
other problems on an organizational level:
According to the constitution of the organiza-
tion, the general assembly has to meet every
year. During this meeting, general elections
are held, in which the board, and executive
committee members are re-elected. However,
the Reverend—as the chairman of the board–
resisted a general assembly; as he did not want
his power position to be challenged. Most of
the members did not want to challenge the Rev-
erend about this. On the one hand, he refused
to respond to these allegations, as ‘‘he just
starts shouting at people demanding account-
ability!.’’
18
On the other hand, members did
not want to challenge his position, as he was
the initiator of the organization, and as he
was controlling access to the outside contacts
(donors, and politicians).
The transformation of VUPEG into a dicta-
torial one-man organization had a double ef-
fect: on the one hand, it meant that certain
members became less interested in the organi-
zation. The accountant, for example, refused
to work any longer directly with the Rever-
end.
19
On the other hand, it led to a polariza-
tion within the organization. The Reverend
had certain members on his side, who often
accompany him on his field trips; while a
few other—more educated—members allied
themselves around Dr. Charles
20
. Dr. Charles
is the most educated member of the organiza-
tion—he is a veterinary—and most often con-
sulted whenever a ‘‘difficult’’ issue arises. The
whole situation led to strong tensions between
Dr. Charles, and the Reverend. For example,
when Dr. Charles was writing project propos-
als (he was the only member with a university
degree); the other members felt left out, and
had the feeling he was using project proposals
in order to plot against them. Dr. Charles
however took the forefront in leading the
opposition against the dictatorial behavior of
the Reverend. After the Reverend had misap-
propriated 60,000 Ugandan Shillings, Dr.
Charles forced the Reverend to hold a general
meeting, where finally a vote of no confidence
was cast. In the meeting, the Reverend was
downgraded to vice-chairperson. Nevertheless,
when the newly elected chairperson had to
move to another district two months later
(for professional reasons), the Reverend be-
came chairperson again. The members unani-
mously judged that the Reverend had been
punished enough by being a vice-chairperson;
and could therefore take up his older position
again. In other words, even if he had been act-
ing wrongly, he is still seen as the only legiti-
mate leader of the organization. As a
member comments ‘‘He might have acted
wrongly, but he is providing the organization
with funds!.’’
21
In other words, linking capital gave one per-
sonality the power to dominate the organiza-
tion, leading to a general malfunctioning of
the organization. Although formal democratic
structures were introduced, it became no ‘‘play-
ground for democracy,’’ rather a playground
for the ‘‘gatekeeper’’ (Bierschenk, Chauveau,
& De Sardan, 2000) to the higher-level institu-
tions, negatively affecting general accountabil-
ity, participation, and transparency. This
particular relation between VUPEG and the
higher-level institutions is therefore in line with
Putnam’s ‘‘unresponsive’’ form of linking
capital, fostering corruption, and nepotism
rather than ‘‘scaling up’’ the impact of the
organization (Putnam, 2004; Szreter & Wool-
cock, 2004).
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(c) Catholic, agricultural, and rural youth
movement (CARYM) Arua
The Catholic, Agricultural, and Rural Youth
Movement (CARYM) is a Catholic Church
founded lay people’s organization. Its activities
are embedded in the structures of the Catholic
Dioceses, and its main aim is ‘‘to develop the
abilities of rural youth for self-reliance, and
the improvement of the living conditions in
the villages,’’
22
and its main target-group the
non-school going youth. Its main office is in
Kampala, and it has 15 local branches over
Uganda. CARYM Arua started in July 2002.
This was mainly in cooperation with the young,
and dynamic manager of the Dioceses youth
center, Jackson, who had been very active in
the local Dioceses structures: he started as a
chapel youth leader, had several other func-
tions in the Dioceses, and was finally appointed
youth center coordinator. In this position, he is
the person with overall responsibility for the
youth center, and of all organizations working
in the youth center, among which CARYM is
the most important.
Twenty-six motivated members were selected
among the catholic youth from the different
Diocesan parishes. (In fact, no selection had
to take place as there was space for 30 mem-
bers, and only 26 candidates turned up.) Also
an executive was elected, along with a coordi-
nator. The coordinator, which is the only paid
position in the organization, runs the daily activ-
ities of the organization; while Jackson (as the
youth center coordinator) remains financially
responsible for the organization, and reports
back to the local Dioceses, and the national
CARYM offices in Kampala. All these rules
were laid down in a detailed constitution.
CARYM’s main activities are twofold: on the
one hand projects, and training in the field of
sustainable agriculture, and on the other hand
a ‘‘diary cow’’ project, in which cows are passed
on to the different members through a rota-
tional scheme. To this extent, CARYM Kam-
pala gave the individual members of CARYM
Arua a training course in sustainable agricul-
ture, a diary cow, a bicycle, and farm tools.
In return, the individual members had to pass
on knowledge from their training on sustain-
able agriculture to the members of their com-
munity. According to the Constitution, and
the rules of agreement with CARYM Kampala,
the CARYM Arua coordinator has to monitor
the activities of the individual members in their
local communities, and report back to the na-
tional CARYM office. In this sense, the CAR-
YM project aims at introducing a culture of
participant, and responsible citizens, not only
within the organization, but also in the wider
community, through passing on the training.
As the support of CARYM Kampala is only
temporary (four years), it strongly encourages
its member organizations to look for other do-
nors in support of their activities. CARYM
Arua proved to be fairly successful in this. It
has been contracted by GTZ (German develop-
ment agency) as trainers in food, and nutrition
schemes in the refugee camps in the area; and
World Vision donated a carpentry workshop
to the organization. Within CARYM, these
successes are mainly attributed to Jackson,
who has been active in the church structures
for a long time, and has many contacts through
his position as a youth center coordinator.
Moreover, he was the one who established the
links with CARYM Kampala, and the other
donor organizations. This linking social capital
gave Jackson strong respect within the organi-
zation, but inversely affected participation,
accountability, and general group communica-
tion: for example, CARYM has to submit a
monthly report to the national CARYM office,
in which they describe their monthly activities.
The coordinator has to submit these to Jack-
son, who has to forward them to CARYM
Kampala. The problem is not in the writing
of the report, but in the fact that the report is
forwarded to Jackson, who does not forward
it to the national office. As the coordinator ex-
plains
‘‘Communication with the national office is quite dif-
ficult for us. There is a gap for us members. We do
not communicate many times. We communicate
through Jackson. But me, as a coordinator, I do
not. Because we need to respect the hierarchy! (...)
We are supposed to report monthly to the national
office. But it is a bit difficult internally. We as mem-
bers sit, and handwrite these reports. We then give it
to Jackson, who should type it, and send it to the na-
tional office. But we do not get feedback from him if
it is sent, or not. Jackson should send our report to-
gether with a financial report that he writes. But he
forgets. We ask him, but no clear answer is given.
He will say the youth secretary is too busy. No one
else can assist us. We are yet to find a proper solution
for this.’’
23
Because of the strong respect for Jackson,
members do not dare to confront him, nor do
they have the capacity to consult anyone else
on this, because Jackson is controlling all the
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outside contacts of the organization. Even
when the national CARYM coordinator came
to monitor CARYM Arua’s activities, and ur-
gently requested them to send monthly reports,
this did not change this attitude. ‘‘As Jackson
was in contact with the national office, he must
be knowing what is best for us,’’
24
was the
comment of the secretary.
As a result, reports were never sent. More-
over, the CARYM coordinator stopped moni-
toring the activities of the individual members
in the different parishes, and individual mem-
bers stopped reporting on their activities. In
this general context, members did not feel ob-
liged to give further training to their commu-
nity members. Throughout the interviews,
members emphasized how they no longer felt
encouraged to organize the time-consuming
training courses without the direct support
and knowledge of the executive. It was found
that the 26 members on average trained three
people from their community, while at least
10 people per person was the figure agreed with
the national office.
The CARYM executive also proved to be
unaware of the financial status of CARYM:
no one knew the actual budget of CARYM,
how much money was, and could still be spent.
As the coordinator comments
‘‘We do not know where the money comes from, if it
is money from the national office, or where. Jackson
gives us a broad figure, but we have no clue of what it
is spent on. Last time I asked, but he told me that he
first was going to update the old data, and then give
accountability to me. But up to today, he has not
done this.’’
25
In other words, the members do not dare to
confront Jackson. Also meetings proved to be
problematic. Although they initially were hav-
ing a monthly executive CARYM meeting,
and a general CARYM meeting every two
months—as was laid out in the constitution—
CARYM meetings soon proved to be very
rare.
26
According to the CARYM members,
this is mainly because Jackson hardly has time
left for meetings: through his status as educated
‘‘gatekeeper,’’ linking the organization to exter-
nal actor, Jackson not only obtained political
power within the organization, but also in the
wider local political field: he was elected as a vil-
lage chairman, an elected member of the local
School Management Committee, and a fre-
quently asked master of ceremony for fundrais-
ing activities. In other words, Jackson had been
accumulating more, and more power through
his outside contacts (‘‘linking capital’’), which
allowed him to increasingly neglect formal rules
within the association regarding democratic
procedures, participation, and accountability.
This also had an effect on the bonding capital
of the association. Whereas members initially
had some form of bonding capital through the
meetings, and trainings, they started becoming
less, and less involved with the organization as
a whole: members no longer met as an ‘‘organi-
zation,’’ had no impact, or input in it, and
therefore slowly lost contact with the associa-
tion. The organization became more, and more
a collection of individuals (instead of an associ-
ation united by social capital), being only left
with the material aspects of their membership,
such as the dairy cows. They no longer felt in-
volved with the association.
Although this process reduced the function
of the executive to almost purely ceremonial,
this was nevertheless perceived as legitimate
by both the executive, and the individual mem-
bers. During many interviews, and observa-
tions, it was emphasized how the development
of CARYM would not be possible without
the involvement of Jackson, who was often de-
scribed as the ‘‘father’’
27
of the association. He
had been involved with the Dioceses for a long
time; he had a higher educational level; but
most importantly, he has been linking them
to the different developmental actors. Thanks
to his efforts, they had received several benefits
from CARYM, a carpentry workshop from
World Vision, and some extra employment
for GTZ—all of which had proved impossible
without Jackson. As a result of his efforts,
members did not dare, or did not want, to con-
front Jackson on issues such as lack of trans-
parency, accountability, and participation.
Concluding, we can say that linking capital
was the basic form of social capital in CAR-
YM: it was the national CARYM office, in
cooperation with the local church authorities,
which formed the association. As such, the
association is in a continuous relationship with
the higher-level CARYM offices, and has to
provide reports, attend training courses, write
proposals, etc. Through this relationship ‘‘re-
sources, information, and ideas’’ (Woolcock,
2002) are received, which indeed have positive
effects on the organization: knowledge was
received, and (in the initial stages of the asso-
ciation) passed on to the wider community.
No ‘‘synergy’’ was formed with the local
government, but a good cooperation was in
place with the international donors which were
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present in the area. However, the fact that
linking capital was the only source of social
capital soon proved to be problematic for
the organization: the leader, Jackson, bases
his authority on his links with higher-level for-
mal institutions, and is effectively controlling
all access, both to the national CARYM
authorities, the local church authorities, and
other donors (GTZ, and World Vision). Just
as with VUPEG, this authority proved detri-
mental to the democratic development of the
organization.
These findings strongly contradict earlier re-
search on faith-based organizations (FBOs)
(Cnaan, Boddie, Handy, Yancey, & Schneider,
2002; Greely, 1997), which argues how strong
social ties are developed through religious par-
ticipation, and that religion as a basis for bond-
ing creates ‘‘deeper, broader, and more
sustaining relationships’’ (Lockhart 2005: 57).
Through the creation of this religiously based
bonding capital, FBOs are considered less cor-
rupt, more participatory, more transparent,
and so on. They are considered true ‘‘agents
of transformation’’ (Clark, 2007: 77), which
are more effective, and trustworthy (Silverman,
2002) than secular organizations.
28
The case of
CARYM, however, shows that these ‘‘stron-
ger’’ bonding ties never came into existence,
and how CARYM is not less corrupt, partici-
patory, and transparent. On the contrary: from
the beginning of the association, the important
status of Jackson within the local church hier-
archy proved to be an important factor in hin-
dering democratic processes within the
organization. Jackson’s lack of transparency,
and authoritarian tendencies were easily ac-
cepted as he had always been strongly embed-
ded within the local religious structures, and
negatively affected the initial processes of par-
ticipation, and accountability (e.g., the organi-
zation of meetings). This process is similar to
the conclusions from other empirical studies
of African civil society groups (Barkan, McN-
ulty, & Ayeni, 1991; Bierschenk et al., 2000;
Fatton, 1995; Mohan, 2002; Patterson, 1998,
2003; Platteau & Gaspart, 2003), which de-
scribe how the links of certain leading members
with powerful outside actors such as the state,
or donors negatively affect the internal dynam-
ics of groups. As Patterson (1998, p. 427) states,
this ‘‘results in limited participation, skewed
communication between members, and leaders,
and leaders who are not accountable for their
actions,’’ which is exactly what happened with
CARYM.
The case of CARYM also contradicts earlier
findings on the more holistic approach of faith-
based programs. As Cnaan et al. argue: ‘‘The
congregational approach to service differs from
that of the professional care in that it is holistic:
contact with those being served does not end
when the problem disappears’’ (2002: 291). In
other words, through their holistic approach,
faith-based programs have a more long-term
commitment to their clients than secular pro-
grams (Monsma & Soper 2003, p. 25). This
was definitely not the case for CARYM: in a
follow-up visit in early, 2007, the association
had virtually collapsed. As the funding from
the national office had ended, the association’s
activities had totally stopped - CARYM Arua
only existed on paper.
4. CONCLUSION
Social capital does not always promote dem-
ocratic practices, but has different effects at dif-
ferent points. This dynamic is well
characterized by a distinction between bonding,
bridging, and linking social capital. In this arti-
cle, three associations were described which
throughout their history have developed differ-
ent kinds of social capital. Three conclusions
can be drawn from these case studies. Firstly,
linking capital can result in a centralization of
power in the hands of the gatekeeper, nega-
tively affecting the internal, and external demo-
cratic character of the organization. VUPEG,
and CARYM came into existence because of
links to higher-level institutions, respectively,
politicians, and church institutions. In both
organizations, a ‘‘development broker,’’ or
‘‘gatekeeper’’ was regulating access to flows of
information, and resources. This gatekeeper ne-
glected all democratic procedures, but he was
seen as legitimate by the individual members.
This is similar to what Platteau writes about
elite capture in a community-based association
in West Africa
‘‘In a context where the ability to deal with external
resources of funding is concentrated in a small elite
group, the bargaining strength of common people
is inevitable limited, hence their ready acceptance
of highly asymmetric patterns of the distribution of
program benefits. If the intervention of the elite re-
sults in an improvement in the predicament of the
poor, however small that improvement, the latter
tend to be thankful to their leaders: the outcome rep-
resents a Pareto improvement over the previous situ-
ation, and this is what matters after all.’’ (Platteau
2004: 227).
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Even in the instances where individuals, and
groups from the wider community joined the
association—and therefore introduce bridging
capital—this was molded into undemocratic
patterns of power, and legitimacy. For in-
stance, VUPEG attracted individual educated
members from the wider community, and be-
came an umbrella organization with many
community associations. It soon became clear
that there was an embezzlement of funds by
the Reverend, and neglect of other democratic
practices. In spite of the bridging capital, it
took a long time for any action to be taken,
which did not prove very effective, as the Rev-
erend soon regained his old position. In spite
of his undemocratic, and corrupt practices,
the Reverend therefore never lost his legiti-
macy.
Secondly, this first point brings us to a much
larger conclusion, namely that the larger con-
text in which CBOs operate has a profound im-
pact on their internal dynamics. This stands in
stark contrast with much of the reasoning of
the social capital literature, which seems to as-
sume that CBOs operate within a vacuum.
Our case studies demonstrate how CBOs are
bound by institutions, and norms in their envi-
ronment, which have a strong impact on orga-
nizational outcomes, and the behavior of
individuals within the organization (North,
1990). This corresponds with insights from the
literature on new institutionalism, which
emphasise the examination of rules, norms,
and processes in analyzing organizations: any
attempt at understanding organizations has to
be understood in the larger context, as formal,
or informal procedures, routines, norms, and
conventions do have an impact on the internal
dynamics of associations
29
(Powell & Di Mag-
gio, 1991). These institutions are not always
functional with regard to achieving the organi-
zation’s goals, which Campbell (1998) (quoted
in: Hall & Taylor, 1996, p. 949) described as a
‘‘logic of social appropriateness’’ instead of a
‘‘logic of instrumentality.’’
The same can be argued with regard to social
capital, as larger norms and institutions do
shape the building of social capital in these
associations. This is well reflected in our discus-
sion on the role of the gatekeeper in CBOs, a
position which is to a great extent influenced
by larger norms, and institutions.
Within CARYM, Jackson’s privileged posi-
tion is to a great extent embedded in larger so-
cial hierarchies, but in particular in his role
within a respected local organization, that is,
the church. This religious role acts as a strong
basis of power, and legitimacy, which allows
asymmetric patterns of distribution to occur
within the organization. Our findings therefore
provide an important correction with regard to
the assumptions about faith-based organiza-
tions, and development, as they point out
how embeddedness into wider religious struc-
tures can act as a legitimating force for corrup-
tion, and undemocratic practices. A similar
dynamic can be seen within VUPEG: the Rev-
erend also bases his authority on his role in the
local religious structures, but even more so on
his connection to the local political sphere. This
provides him with the necessary power, and
legitimacy within the organization (or at least
a substantial part of this organization).
Similarly, the specific context of a lack of ac-
cess to resources has a profound impact on the
formation of social capital in all three of the
associations. Within VUPEG, and CARYM,
this poverty, and underdevelopment makes
the member rely on linking capital at all
costs—even if it involves corruption on the part
of the gatekeepers. Members do not necessarily
care much about bonding capital, as their main
preoccupation is access to resources. The
OPEC boys have the same concern, but in
slightly different circumstances, and with the
opposite effect: in their specific situation, link-
ing capital was initially absent. Members there-
fore had all advantage in making the
organization effective, that is, they had to have
strong bonding capital in order to gain access
to resources. This factor, in combination with
their larger social, and political circumstances
(e.g., feelings of political, and social marginali-
zation), also had a profound impact on the effi-
cient formation of bridging, and linking capital,
something which has been described in detail
above.
This brings us at our third conclusion: the
case of the OPEC boys shows how linking cap-
ital can produce positive results when firmly
embedded in bonding, and bridging capital.
Whereas VUPEG, and CARYM came into
existence through higher-level initiatives, the
OPEC boys originated as a community initia-
tive to ‘‘get by.’’ This bonding social capital
gradually expanded through bridging ties with
the wider community, in which many young
men joined their association, and in which the
OPEC boys represented the interests of other
groups. The combination of bonding and
bridging finally led to linking ties with the local
government, in which this particular synergy
THE DYNAMICS OF SOCIAL CAPITAL AND COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS IN UGANDA 2217
Author's personal copy
further helped the organization to develop it-
self. In this sense, bonding, and bridging capital
guides the behavior of the association in linking
up with higher-level institutions, and can act as
a break on potentially undemocratic practices.
For example, a chairperson of one of the OPEC
sub-groups (OPEC Ediofe) was, in 2004 imme-
diately fined, and sacked from his position
when he was found to be embezzling funds
from the association’s account. In this process
of transforming from a small-scale survival ini-
tiative to a larger-scale association, democratic
practices became part of the organization. In-
stead of being imposed by a higher-level institu-
tion, these participatory, and accountable
structures arose out of need, and are embedded
in the practices of the organization.
From a theoretical point of view, these con-
clusions provide empirical insights with regard
to the two assumptions that organizations fol-
low a linear progression from bonding to bridg-
ing to linking social capital; and that the
optimal balance in the end should include all
three forms of social capital.
First of all, our cases question the progres-
sion assumption. As the cases of CARYM,
and VUPEG clearly demonstrate, it is implau-
sible that all community-based organizations
always progress from bonding to bridging to
linking social capital. On the contrary, it is
shown how community-based organizations
can be heavily dependent on linking capital
for their development: from the beginning, they
are created through higher-level institutions as
the church, political parties, NGOs, interna-
tional donors, and so on. However, our case
studies do support the fact that only a progres-
sion from bonding to bridging to linking social
capital seems to give the expected positive re-
sults of furthering development, and democ-
racy. At least it is clear that community-based
organizations need to be embedded in locally
produced bonding, and afterwards bridging so-
cial capital, as was the case with the OPEC
boys. Only then the effects of linking social cap-
ital were positive and some form of democratic
governance was achieved within the organiza-
tion. This was not the case for VUPEG, and
CARYM, which followed another path of so-
cial capital formation.
Secondly, our conclusions also question the
normative assumption that associations should
have all types of social capital in the end. An
interesting question in this regard is if organiza-
tions can specialize in one type of social capital
over another. The CARYM members, for
example, do not care much about the associa-
tion’s lack of bonding capital, as the linking
capital provides them with strong benefits.
Then, the question is, if bonding, or bridging
social capital is really needed? In the short term
they do not, as the members receive their bene-
fits anyhow through the ‘‘gatekeeper.’’ How-
ever, in the long-term, the absence of
bonding, and/or bridging capital gives the asso-
ciation many difficulties such as authoritarian
tendencies, and corruption. The rich literature
on empirical studies of African civil society
groups (cf. Barkan et al., 1991; Bierschenk
et al., 2000; Fatton, 1995; Mohan, 2002; Patter-
son, 1998, 2003; Platteau & Gaspart, 2003)
demonstrates how links with the state, and do-
nors have a strong impact on the internal
dynamics of these groups. As our case studies
demonstrate, strong bonding, and bridging
capital is needed in order to have efficient link-
ing capital within these community associa-
tions. Specialization in the linking type of
social capital seems only plausible when organi-
zations move away from the local level. Bebb-
ington and Carrol (2000), for example,
described how federations become specialized
‘‘gatekeepers’’ for the coffee producers toward
external power structures such as the interna-
tional coffee market, and the state. Such extra
community organizations (De Silva et al.,
2007) act as intermediaries, which connect com-
munities with national organizations, govern-
ment, and the broader civil society. As these
organizations no longer have to take into con-
sideration specific community issues, they can
go beyond this community level, and focus on
linking capital. This is not possible for commu-
nity-based associations, as strong social bonds
are the very ‘‘nature’’ of their organization.
They should present specific community issues,
and therefore need to be embedded in their
communities. As the Opec Boys demonstrate,
the bonding type of social capital has to be
the very foundation of a community-based
organization in order to allow the bridging,
and linking types to effectively increase the im-
pact of the organization.
This brings us to a more general policy con-
clusion about the role of external interventions
in the creation of social capital. Social capital is
seen as a missing link to development, and
democratic governance, and external develop-
ment interventions are requested to ‘‘create so-
cial capital that increases the voice, and
economic opportunities of the poor’’ (World
Bank 2000: 129–130). Supporting community
2218 WORLD DEVELOPMENT
Author's personal copy
associations in order to build this social capital
is therefore becoming a standard donor strat-
egy. Our case studies suggest that external
interventions can not only create, or ‘‘scale
up’’ the impact of social capital (OPEC), but
social capital can also be negatively affected
by them (VUPEG, and especially CARYM).
External interventions can confuse the optimal
combination of different forms of social capital
within an association, by abruptly creating a
high stock of linking social capital, bringing
new resources, ideas, and information to the
association. Although this can be very useful,
too often the association does not possess suffi-
cient bonding, and bridging social capital to
handle this externally induced linking social
capital.
In their article on community-driven devel-
opment, Platteau and Gaspart (2003) cited Tilly
(1985) from whom they learnt that African
states received their legitimacy from the outside
world, not as a result of an endogenous bar-
gaining process between rulers, and ruled. Plat-
teau, and Gaspart point to a similar conclusion
for many African rural communities. By dis-
bursing considerable amounts of money, and
resources, external development interventions
enable local leaders to build up outside legiti-
macy, and as a consequence, prevent the auton-
omous evolution of community leadership on a
total accountability vis-a-vis the community
members (Platteau & Gaspart 2003: 1700).
Our article argues that the same analysis is va-
lid at the associational level. In terms of social
capital dynamics, when externally induced link-
ing social capital is not embedded in more lo-
cally produced dynamics of bonding, and
bridging social capital, it can prevent the auton-
omous evolution of accountability between the
leaders, and the members of the association.
This indicates the importance of an autono-
mous organizational dynamic progress, charac-
terized by an optimal combination of different
forms of social capital that changes over time,
and context. When linking social capital is
introduced without sufficiently embedded
bonding, and bridging social capital, this can
negatively affect the development of the organi-
zation. External interventions in support of so-
cial capital formation should be aware of this
dynamic process, in order to not negatively af-
fect it.
NOTES
1. The conceptual history of social capital does not
start in the middle of the nineties, but it was the work of
Robert Putnam that brought the whole discussion to the
forefront. For a conceptual history of social capital, see
the useful article of Farr (2004).
2. The OPEC boys are located in the town, and on the
outskirts of the town, while VUPEG, and CARYM are
located in peri-urban centers outside of Arua town.
3. Fieldwork, funded by the Fund for Scientific
Research-Flanders (FWO), was carried out during
October–December 2005.
4. The three organizations were selected because they
had strongly varying linkages with external actors when
coming into being. They are therefore ideally suited for
providing deeper insights in the key-theme of this article,
that is, the effects of linking capital on the association.
5. For an elaborate description of the OPEC boys (in
French) see Titeca (2006), and Lecoutere and Titeca
(2007).
6. Interview OPEC boy October 19, 2005.
7. The OPEC boys were more effective with the
district authorities than with the market authorities
because the former are essentially responsible for the
provision of peace, and security in the district, which
makes them most vulnerable to the demands of this
potentially dangerous group of unemployed young
men. The fact that the OPEC boys are able to form
a rebel group therefore is a reason for the district
authorities to listen to the OPEC boys, not for the
market authorities.
8. For a detailed discussion of this respect by the wider
population, cf. Titeca (2006), p. 152–156.
9. Interview OPEC boy November 02, 2005.
10. De Villers, Jewsiewicki, and Monnier (2002) dem-
onstrated how the informal economy in Kisangani is
strongly regulated by many informal rules, in order to
gain a certain credibility toward potential clients while at
the same time facilitating reciprocity between them. A
similar dynamic can be seen within the OPEC boys, who
have strict guidelines on the behavior within the asso-
ciation. Similarly, information about suppliers, and
smuggling routes is based on trust.
THE DYNAMICS OF SOCIAL CAPITAL AND COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS IN UGANDA 2219
Author's personal copy
11. VUPEG constitution, unpublished, 1998, p. 1.
12. VUPEG is in this no exception, as this is a very
common phenomenon in rural Uganda—many similar
organizations were encountered during the field re-
search.
13. In 2005, VUPEG had a total of 1,560 members,
and 68 Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) in 9
parishes.
14. Under Ugandan decentralization, a system of five
‘‘layers’’ of local government is introduced: district (LC
V), county, sub-county (LCIII), parish, village (LC I).
15. Interview VUPEG staff member November 02,
2005.
16. Four staff members act as trainers of the NAADS
offices of the district offices, and are hired by two other
sub-county authorities, for example, to give trainings on
bee-keeping.
17. Interview Reverend April 23, 2007.
18. Interview member October 17, 2005.
19. Although this affected the interest of the members,
and the related level of activity of the organization, it did
not affect the overall membership as such: none of the
membership organizations pulled out.
20. Dr Charles originates from the village where
VUPEG is based. He did not join from the beginning
(as he was studying outside of Arua), but joined the
association around 1998. He had started a business in
animal drugs around that time, and he felt that the
VUPEG membership might be beneficial for his busi-
ness.
21. Interview member, November 28, 2005.
22. ‘‘CARYM constitution,’’ unpublished, p.1.
23. Interview CARYM coordinator November 21,
2005.
24. Interview CARYM secretary November 08, 2005.
25. Interview coordinator October 23, 2005.
26. Browsing through the minutes of the general
CARYM meetings, the authors indeed saw this tendency
reflected: in the initial six months of the movement, four
meetings were held (July 01, 2004; October 03, 2004;
November 06, 2004; December 23, 2004) whereas in the
following 12 months only one meeting was held (Octo-
ber 29, 2005).
27. For example, interview with CARYM members on
October 25, 2005, and November 21, 2005.
28. These findings are also reflected in the policies
of multilateral donors (cf. Belshaw, Calderisi, &
Sugden, 2001; Marshall & Marsh, 2003; Marshall &
Keough, 2004) for whom FBOs are seen as the right
actors which are able to mobilize the moral energy
of the faith communities in support of the Millen-
nium Development Goals (Clark, 2007: 77). FBOs
also play an important role in policy implementation
in the US (Bartkowski & Regis, 2003; Monsma &
Mounts, 2002).
29. For a more detailed empirical study on how
institutions affect internal dynamics in organizations,
cf. Patterson (2003).
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... 38,39 Social networks were categorized into three namely: bonding, bridging, and linking networks. [40][41][42] Bonding networks were defined as those that involved "strong bonds or intimate relationships with people of the same background" that supported YALWH, such as family members, spouses, friends, and neighbors. [40][41][42] Bonding networks were indicated by individuals who were in close contact with the YALWH with whom they engaged in regular visits, talks, collaborative activities; considered confidants for HIV status disclosure and helped YALWH overcome barriers to ART adherence. ...
... [40][41][42] Bonding networks were defined as those that involved "strong bonds or intimate relationships with people of the same background" that supported YALWH, such as family members, spouses, friends, and neighbors. [40][41][42] Bonding networks were indicated by individuals who were in close contact with the YALWH with whom they engaged in regular visits, talks, collaborative activities; considered confidants for HIV status disclosure and helped YALWH overcome barriers to ART adherence. On the other hand, bridging networks were defined as networks that involved weaker but more cross-cutting connections with "people of diverse backgrounds" organized in either local, regional, or national level networks of community groups. ...
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