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Journal of Rural Studies 26 (2010) 63–72

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Journal of Rural Studies

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Social Capital in the LEADER Initiative: a methodological approach

Gianluca Nardone , Roberta Sisto b, * , Antonio Lopolito a
Department of Production Science, Engineering, Economics in Agricultural and Livestock Systems (PRIME), University of Foggia, Via Napoli 25, 71100 Foggia, Italy
Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics, University of Foggia, Largo Papa Giovanni Paolo II, 71100 Foggia, Italy
Keywords: This paper focuses on the introduction of a suitable method for the measurement of social capital in the
LEADER Programme context of rural development policies. We present an empirical application of the method to four case
Rural development studies from the south of Italy. In order to overcome some limits affecting previous empirical research,
Social capital
we have grounded the measurement framework upon a clear decomposition of the concept of social
capital characterizing three main dimensions: structural, relational and cognitive. This has allowed us to
build five direct indicators for the core components of social capital created within the EU local agencies
for rural development (the Local Action Groups). Moreover we have set a synthetic measure capturing
the specific configuration of the internal social capital of the groups as a whole.
Ó 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction On these bases, it may be assumed that in the evaluation of such
rural development programme, one of the most important points
The LEADER Initiative is a small-scale policy operating in to address is its effect in terms of social capital created within local
restricted rural territories with a modest amount of financial agencies. This necessarily requires the availability of a suitable
resources. Since its first edition it has attracted the attention of method for the measurement of social capital in the context of rural
scholars and operators. Its appeal is confirmed by the fact that the development. Thus, the work focuses on the introduction and
UE Commission has so far financed four consecutive editions, the testing of such a method.
latest running in the period 2007–2013. The interest in this pro- In an attempt to overcome some measurement limits affecting
gramme is related to its innovative character. From the EU previous empirical research (use of indirect indicators and tauto-
Commission standpoint the intention of the programme is to logical problems), the aim of this work is to set up a new method of
activate the capacity-building of local actors through the activation measurement of the social capital produced within the EU local
of social capital (Ray, 1998, 1999; Shucksmith, 2000). The relevance agencies for rural development, the Local Action Groups (LAGs). It is
of social resources in the LEADER Initiative is emphasised by based on the employment of specific indicators for each core
Kearney et al. (1994) who argue that local interpreters of the pro- dimension of social capital (structural, relational and cognitive) as
gramme should develop a cooperative attitude, a high level of identified in the literature, and a synthetic indicator to measure the
mutual trust, and a shared determination to work on common overall configuration of the social capital of each group.
objectives. The paper opens with an overview on the LEADER Initiative and
In this paper we adopt the vision of some scholars (Shucksmith, its relationship with social capital in Section 2. The main definitions
2000; Doria et al., 2003; Yamaoka et al., 2008) who conceive the of the concept of social capital and related measurement problems
LEADER as a programme addressing the issue of rural development are addressed in Section 3. The discussion continues with the
through the creation and use of social capital as a public-owned key description of the methodological approach to the measurement of
resource enabling sustainable development. This is consistent with social capital in the context of the LEADER Initiative in Section 4.
some empirical evidence on the capacity of the LEADER Programme This method is then applied, as a case study, to four LAGs present in
in contributing remarkably to the aggregation of groups (namely a representative rural region of the south of Italy, the Province of
the local agencies for the management of the programme) with Foggia. The case study, measurement and results are described in
a high level of social capital (Scott, 2004; Pylkka ¨nen, 2006). Section 5. Finally, Section 6 contains some concluding remarks.

2. Social Capital in the LEADER Initiative
* Corresponding author. Tel.: þ39 0881 753727/þ39 320 4394618 (Mobile);
fax: þ39 0881 720566. The LEADER Initiative was conceived to search for innovative
E-mail address: [email protected] (R. Sisto). solutions to rural problems based on the recognition and the best
0743-0167/$ – see front matter Ó 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

64 G. Nardone et al. / Journal of Rural Studies 26 (2010) 63–72
employment of the endogenous resources. Since its first edition, in the plans are implemented, the interaction among group members
the period 1991–1994, the LEADER Programme has changed in and the effects of action stabilise behavioural norms within the
emphasis and scope. In the original EU design, it was set up to help group. Finally, the perceived success of the programme, its social
disadvantaged rural areas of Europe face their problems by exper- consensus and the legitimisation gained by LAGs can produce
imenting with an alternative approach to the mere external special stability in the relationships (Doria et al., 2003).
interventions in the agriculture sector, mainly focused on the As the social capital is enhanced, the cooperation within the
building of local capacity (Farrell and Thirion, 2005). group is, in turn, positively affected. Indeed, as Rydin and Holman
Rather than representing the definitive solution to all rural (2004, p. 128) explain, social capital by means of its norms and
problems, given its small-scale financial endowment, such a design social links ‘‘enhances the advantages of getting together and
assumed a somewhat experimental and demonstrative value. allows for the operation of soft sanctions of blame and loss of
During the first two editions of the Programme (1991–1994 and reputation when individuals choose not to join in’’. In such a way,
1994–2000), the new method was largely experimented with since social capital alters the balance of costs and benefits facing indi-
over 1200 territories adopted it. It has not, however, always viduals and mitigates the problem of free-riding in policy pro-
produced the desired results, but in many cases the impacts have grammes. Moreover, social capital facilitates the circulation of
been important ‘‘so that [.] it has been possible to reverse the information and its use within the group fostering the coordination
downward trend and make the rural areas competitive in new of the activities. Finally, the formation of social networks is ‘‘asso-
fields’’ (Farrell and Thirion, 2005, p. 282). As a consequence, the ciated with openness to resources that are not generally accessible
LEADER method has gradually become a model for further rural in the immediate surroundings and that help to strengthen and
development policies and many of its features have been widely advance a project’’ (Franke, 2005, p. 16). As a whole, all these
adopted within national policies in many EU countries (Farrell and elements contribute to the quality and success of the project.
Thirion, 2005). Furthermore, the lessons drawn from the first two Ramos and Delgado (2003, p. 143) point out that ‘‘these changes
editions of LEADER have been consolidated and enhanced by represent a huge step forward in terms of both the decentralisation
means of another two editions (2000–2006 and the current 2007– process and the transfer of competencies and real power to local
2013) extending to all European rural areas, including the level’’. However, some ambiguous elements persist. Specifically, in
economically developed ones. the creation and use of social capital the risk is to reproduce solely
The greatest innovative character of such an approach lies in the the local power relations excluding some weak social categories
transfer of power and public funds from the level of community and undervaluing their stakes. This posits the problem of legiti-
administration to the local level (Ramos and Delgado, 2003). This macy of the networks created within the LAGs and their
has been done with the aim of enabling local people to develop an representativeness.
organic set of actions by the creation of so-called LAGs (Local Action This discussion highlights that social capital can play a crucial
Groups). These groups are public–private partnerships which foster role in the LEADER Programme. Thus, in order to investigate the
interconnections between government, civil society and economic specific issues of such a rural development policy, a deeper
sectors. The formation of such mixed groups implies the partici- understanding of the social capital is required.
pation of local actors in the development process and this allows
the improvement of the skills of both administrative employees
and the population in general (Ramos and Delgado, 2003). 3. Definition and measurement problems
The intention of the Commission is to induce a long-term rural
development process based on the capacity-building of local actors One of the most important problems affecting social capital
rather than simply on the transfer of funds. Following Kearney et al. literature is the chronic lack of conceptual clarity which contributes
(1994) this capacity-building process could be activated by to its over-versatility and indiscriminate application (Lynch et al.,
encouraging new forms of organization and stimulating new forms 2000). This feeds the debate on its explanatory potential and could
of linkages between groups and public agencies. Thus, as argued by be misleading when the analysis includes aspects of social structure
Shucksmith (2000, p. 208) ‘‘the essence of capacity-building in whose effects on economic development are unclear. Indeed, while
LEADER is viewed as the creation of social capital of various forms a long list of benefits (such as facilitating coordinated actions,
that could benefit the whole community’’. This view is supported a reduction in the cost of transactions, and so on) is attached to the
by several other scholars who conceive the LEADER as a pro- concept of social capital (Coleman, 1988, 1990; Putnam et al., 1993;
gramme addressing the issue of rural development through the Onyx and Bullen, 2000; Sobels et al., 2001), it is well recognized in
creation and use of social capital as a publically owned key resource the literature that social capital also has a ‘dark side’ which could
enabling sustainable development processes to take place generate negative effects (Woolcock, 1998; Fine, 1999; DeFilippis,
(Yamaoka et al., 2008; Doria et al., 2003). In their vision, the 2001; Sobel, 2002; Law and Mooney, 2006; Moseleyand Phal, 2007).
accumulation of social capital is not a direct objective of the policies Sabatini (2009) highlights that networks and their relational
but an instrument to facilitate achieving the policy’s specific goals. contents could be used in order to gain narrow and sectarian inter-
LEADER effects in terms of local social capital creations can be ests against the well-being of the wider community. The different
widely different according to how the activities are conducted. roles that social networks can play in shaping economic develop-
There is little effect when groups plan their actions in a traditional ment are often synthesized in the conventional distinction between
central way as part of a purely sectoral approach. On the other hand, bonding, bridging and linking social capital (Narayan, 1999). The
the programme could be very effective in social capital production actual combination of these kinds of links may affect the productive
if a locally conceived cooperation approach is adopted (Farrell and capacity of a group. In particular, while bonding links and fostering
Thirion, 2005). Some scholars (Doria et al., 2003; Vettoretto, 2006)
highlight several ways in which LEADER can contribute to social
capital accumulation. Firstly, the programme requires common 1 While the bonding form refers to the social links generated and shared by
activities such as participatory project design, preparation of the members of a relatively homogenous group, the bridging form concerns the rela-
tionships interconnecting heterogeneous groups with different backgrounds
plans, and evaluation of the processes. These forms of joint action
(Woodhouse, 2006). Finally, linking social capital describes ties connecting indi-
produce interpretative frames, languages and visions which are viduals or groups to people or groups in positions of political or financial power
shared by the group’s members as the programme advances. Once (Sabatini, 2009).

G. Nardone et al. / Journal of Rural Studies 26 (2010) 63–72 65
the cohesionwithin the group can encourage cooperation in the first dynamic process of formation of social capital within such groups is
phase of interplayand can support grassroots development based on not addressed.
community participation (Brown and Ashman, 1996), its excess The survey unit is represented by the relationships between the
could obstacle improvement and oppress some members of the Board of Director (BD) members of each LAG thus envisaging that
community or prevent them from connecting with other commu- the decisional structure, and its social capital, affects the productive
nities and organizations. ‘‘Such negative bonding social capital can capacity of the LAGs. Six indexes have been employed. Five of them
hinder the achievement of a policygoal bycoalescingopponents into have been used to investigate the three dimensions of LAGs’ social
an effective coalition’’ (Rydin and Holman, 2004, p. 119). capital, while a sixth is intended to be a synthetic measure of the
Another crucial problem attains the measurement of social internal social capital as a whole. All these indexes are illustrated as
capital. Most empirical studies measure it through indirect indi- follows.
cators (such as membership of organizations and voter turnout)
mainly related to the outcome of social capital rather than its core
components. This rests on a tautology which makes social capital 4.1. The structural dimension
present everywhere its outcome is observed. As pointed out by
Sabatini (2009) this tautology poses a logical problem: ‘‘if social The structural dimension of LAGs’ social capital has been ana-
capital is everything that can make agents cooperate or markets lysed by means of two indexes. The first is the network diversity index
work better, then any empirical analysis will find that social capital (NTd) aimed at capturing the level of diversity inside each BD, that is,
causes cooperation among agents and improves the efficiency of the heterogeneity of the categories to which the various board
markets’’. As a consequence, social capital is proven always virtu- members belong. Indeed, the potential partners of a LAG can be
ally positive leaving its internal construction and dynamic out of clustered into ideal categories by means of the interests they
the consideration. This is misleading and could invalidate the represent. The greater the representativeness of each category, the
credibility of measurements. more various the group. According to the social capital theory,
In order to overcome such a fundamental limit we need to break a wider variety within the group could provide access to useful
down the concept of social capital into its core components (Forrest resources which are not otherwise available to the group (Franke,
and Kearns, 2001). In this work we adopt the useful decomposition 2005; Macken-Walsh, 2006). This aspect of LAGs also refers to some
made by Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998) who systematized social partnership principles, such as the equilibrium, the opening and the
capital’s components into three main dimensions: structural, democratic aspect of the group (LEADER European Observatory,
relational and cognitive. The structural dimension refers to the set 1997). The index varies in the range of 0 to 1 assuming the value 0 (no
of social structures allowing interaction among individuals. This diversity) when there is only one category in the group and the value
dimension regards the global model of the connections between 1 (maximum diversity) when all the categories are represented in
two actors belonging to the same community. Therefore, the total the same measure in the group. The index is calculated as:
size of this kind of social capital in a defined community depends P N 1
on the total amount of these links. The relational dimension refers i ¼ 1 ðp i q i Þ
NTd ¼ 1 P (1)
to the kind of interaction produced among the individuals as N 1
i ¼ 1 p i
a result of long-lasting relationships. Thus, this dimension regards
the governance mechanisms of relations embedded in these ties, where NTd stands for network diversity and the second member is
that is, the kind of behavioural norms fostering cooperation such as a form of Gini’s concentration index. N represents the maximum
confidence, reciprocity and solidarity. For instance, trust has a number of categories potentially present in a LAG, p i ¼ i/N the
crucial role in increasing cooperation among individuals (Dasgupta, proportion of all the first i categories, and q i the number of board
2000) because it is realized in ‘‘.an expectation with a positive members belonging to the first i categories. The index studies the
valence for the actor, developed under conditions of uncertainty, distribution of the variable ‘‘kind of category’’, and measures the
but in the presence of a cognitive substrate [. ] which exceeds the distance between each case and the maximum concentration level
threshold of mere hope’’ (Mutti, 1998, p. 540). In fact, trust is (each board member belongs to the same category).
a mechanism that allows operating in the presence of uncertainty In order to take into account the representativeness of the
by creating a quasi-certainty status. Therefore, an individual is partnership of the BD, we used the representativeness of the board of
trusted if considered by the partner to be an ‘‘expectable subject’’. directors index (R DB ), which is calculated as the ratio of social share
Finally, the cognitive dimension comprises elements of social represented in the BD:
organization (values, beliefs, etc.) that allow individuals belonging
to a group to reach a shared vision of their own community. The R BD ¼ (2)
latter dimension refers to the compatibility of values of individuals C Soc
with the community ones. This dimension involves sharing values, where Q BD is the value in EURO of the joint stock represented in the
visions and strategies (Ostrom, 2000). BD and C Soc the value of the total joint stock of the LAG. This index
Here we argue that in order to capture the elusive concept of
social capital, a functional measurement method should focus on
direct indicators of each of these dimensions. This arrangement 2 Cimiotti (2006) provided empirical evidence that BD is likely to represent the
represents one way of overcoming the conceptual vacuity of this most relevant part of the social network of the LAGs. As pointed out in the
kind of immaterial resources and allows us to focus the research on conclusions, an enlargement of the base of analysis is auspicious in order to avoid
potential biases due to the number of some groups.
the specific components of social capital, which are more relevant 3 The partners of local groups are public, economic or social (LEADER European
in the context of territorial-based development policies such as
Observatory, 1997). The representatives of the public sector belong to four cate-
LEADER. gories: public municipalities, other administrations, social services and schools and
universities. There are four ‘‘economic’’ categories: banks, trade or industrial
4. The methodological approach associations, cooperatives and cooperative associations, enterprises and enterprise
associations. The members of the civil society belong to four categories: individuals,
cultural or environmental associations, trade unions, and professional associations.
In this section we focus on the social capital present within the Thus, the partners of a LAG potentially belong to twelve categories.
LAG in a specific moment through a static measurement. The 4 We have the best situation when each category is equally represented.

66 G. Nardone et al. / Journal of Rural Studies 26 (2010) 63–72
could be considered a positive indicator of the presence of struc- z l ¼ 1 AR l
tural social capital. The higher the value, the greater the BD D A ¼ nðn 1Þ (5)
representativeness. For higher levels of representativeness we
expect a greater ability of the BD to support social requests (LEADER P
European Observatory, 1997). where AR l stands for the sum of intensity of the affinity relations
and l represents the number of links between the n members in the
BD. D A can be seen as the average value of the affinity relationship
4.2. The relational dimension between two members of the examined BD.
The last element of the cognitive dimension studied is the
Given that trust is a basic element of the relational dimension of perceived effectiveness of the information flow inside the group.
social capital, we used an index measuring its level within the BDs: The index is the effectiveness in information flow index (Com).For
the network density of trust relations index (D T ). This index is based each LAG, it is calculated as the ratio of total scores assigned by the
on the concept of network density conceived by the Social Network board members to each aspect related to the internal communi-
Analysis (SNA) as the ratio between the number of existing rela- cation and the maximum possible score:
tions and their maximum possible number. In the calculation of D T P n P s
only trust relationships among the BD’s members were counted. It i ¼ 1 j ¼ 1 P ij
is the proportion of existing trust relationships over the total, Com ¼ MaxP (6)
where L is the number of trust relations and n the number of where i ¼ 1,.,n and j ¼ 1,.,s; P ij is the score attributed by
respondent i on the aspect j; MaxP represents the maximum
L possible score.
D T ¼ (3)
nðn 1Þ
4.4. The global social capital
4.3. The cognitive dimension A synthetic description of all the indicators used, their signifi-
cance and their relationship with each of the three dimensions of
This dimension concerns the ability of the management to reach the social capital is presented in Table 1.
a shared vision of problems, and, consequently, a shared develop- The comparison of the status of social capital endowment
ment strategy. Such a capability is a feature of the social atmo- among the LAGs requires a global social capital index. This index
sphere and refers to the cognitive dimension of internal social summarizes the three dimensions of social capital and it results as
capital. This aspect is analysed by means of the network density of the weighted average over the five indexes. Every index was
affinity relations index (D A ) which measures the affinity level among weighted according to the relevance of the related dimensions in
the members of the LAG. This measure is based on the level of the main theoretical contributions as measured by Lopolito and
agreement on possible interventions for local development. Sisto (2007) and shown in Table 2.
Specifically, the board members were asked to put in order of
importance m interventions for their local area. 5. An empirical application
Once data were gathered, the m interventions were weighted
according to the order assigned. The weights were defined The measurement method presented was applied to four case
following Saaty’s Analytic Hierarchy Process (Saaty, 1977). They
have been indicated with x ij , which stands for the weight studies in order to test its explanatory potential. The case studies
are represented by the following groups: Daunofantino, Gargano,
assigned by the board member i to the intervention j and varies
between 0 (no importance attributed) and 1 (maximum impor- Meridaunia and Piana del Tavoliere, which are the LAGs present in
the Province of Foggia, an administrative district in southern Italy.
tance attributed). Being n members within the BD, the intensity
of the affinity within the l generic couple of members (AR l )is They operate in the area shown in Figs. 1 and 2.
Their socio-economic background is quite similar. They share
calculated as:
the most important social and economic features common to nearly
X all parts of the province. Except for the capital town of Foggia,
AR ¼ min x ij ; x kj ; ci; k4n and isk (4) which has a higher population density, the rest of the territory is
j ¼ 1 rural. On average, more than 15% of total production in these areas
comes from the agricultural sector and agricultural employment
where l ¼ 1,.,z, min(x ij ; x ik ) represents the minimum level of
varies between a minimum value of 20% and a maximum of 40%.
agreement between members i and k on the relevance of inter- Daunofantino LAG is experiencing its first involvement in the
vention j. AR l also varies between 0 (no affinity) and 1 (maximum
affinity). Then D A is calculated as: LEADER Programme. It is relatively young and was created
predominantly with the initiative of the public institutions (local
town halls) with the aim of basing local development on enhancing
the naturalistic and cultural resources. Gargano faces problems
SNA describes actors in terms of the relations they are involved in, and views
the social context as a network (a set of nodes and ties). A basic property of related to the failure of local initiatives during the first edition of
a network is its density. It is calculated as the ratio of the number of ties present, to LEADER. As a result this area experienced a loss of faith in local
the maximum possible. The maximum possible number of ties is determined by the institutions which prevented the formation of a partnership during
number of actors. Looking at the individual position, it emerges that actors have the second edition of LEADER. The current partnership has been
different roles and power. Power arises from occupying advantageous positions in
networks of relations; hence, it can be measured looking at the centrality of an
actor in the network. One basic source of power is a high degree (Freeman, 1979).
The concept of degree is associated to the number of ties that the actor has. For an 7 This means that the weights attributed to the indices considered are, respec-
extensive discussion on these concepts see Everett and Borgatti (2005). See also tively: 16 (shared in equal parts) to the two indices referred to the relational
Wasserman and Faust (1994). structure of the LAG (NTd and R DB ); 6 to the indicator of trust (D F ); 6 to the indicator
A relationship between actors A and B is a trust relationship only if A considers of thought affinity (D A ) and 4 to the indicator of the perceived effectiveness of the
B an ‘‘expectable subject’’. flow of information (Com).

G. Nardone et al. / Journal of Rural Studies 26 (2010) 63–72 67
Table 1
Social Capital indexes.
Social capital dimensions indexes Content Relation with social capital
Structural dimension 1. Network Diversity – [NTd] Proportion between # of categories and group Positive: The greater the heterogeneity of the
members and max # of categories. members, the higher the value of this index.
2. Representativeness of BD –[R BD ] Proportion of social share represented in the BD. Positive: The greater its value, the more
representative the BD. This gives information on the
democratic level of the group.
Relational dimension 3. Network density of trust Proportion of trust relations and the total existing Positive: It is a direct indicator of the presence of trust
relations –[D T ] relations between BD members. in the group.
Cognitive dimension 4. Network density of affinity Measurement of the level of affinity between BD Positive: It is an index of the members’ shared vision
relations – [D A ] members. of problems and strategies.
5. Effectiveness in information Measure of perceived efficiency in the information Positive: A good information flow indicates the
flow– [Com] flow. presence of social capital.

formed with LEADERþ. Both Meridaunia and Piana del Tavoliere are members belong to private organizations and, just 8 of them, to
more consolidated structures formed during the second edition of public institutions. All of them agreed to be interviewed, thus
LEADER. They accumulated a certain amount of experience in a total number of 28 interviews were collected.
planning activities but they faced different problems. The former
operates in a hilly area and has demographic problems such as low 5.1. The structural dimension
population density and ageing, which lead to an insufficient level of
public services. The latter deals with a more urbanized area with The composition of the directorate of the LAGs is the first
a large diffusion of agro-industrial activities. Table 3 contains some structural property we investigated. Board members are charac-
of the key comparisons in size, population density, etc. for the LAGs terized by different levels of territorial representativeness. A high
considered. level of representativeness, in fact, corresponds to a high level of
The analysis is based on the results of a survey carried out in the human and social resources supporting the group in improving the
period October–December 2007. Data were collected by means of development and advancement of projects. As a consequence, our
a documental activity and a direct survey. In order to deal with attention focuses mainly on the number of partner categories
historical and technical elements of the context here investigated, represented in LAGs. Of the four LAGs, Meridanunia has the highest
interviews of relevant actors of the various LAGs studied were number of board members. It is composed of twelve directors
carried out. Then a structured questionnaire was submitted to all representing eight different categories, which corresponds to
members of the BDs of each LAG. The questionnaire was adopted to a high level of network diversity index (0.56). Looking at group
collect information on relationships between BD members, espe- diversity, Meridaunia seems to be quite balanced and consistent
cially about the level of trust and affinity. To be more specific, with partnership principles. Further indications come from the
Daunofantino LAG has 4 board members, Gargano LAG has 9, representativeness of border of directors index, which reaches a value
Meridaunia LAG, 12, and Piana del Tavoliere LAG has 3. 20 board of 0.23. More specifically, the represented joint stock refers to the
macro-category of public corporations (that detains 76% of the
Table 2 represented social share). This is consistent with the relevant role
Frequency of the social capital’s dimensions. of the public partners and of the ‘‘Comunita ` Montana del Gargano’’
in particular, whose presence was crucial in the foundation and
Structural Relational Cognitive
reinforcement of the LAG.
Elements Social Relationships, Trust (individual Culture, Values, Shared
Networks, and generalised) (6) Vision/Civic commit- The status of Gargano is slightly different. Three of the nine
Organization and Reciprocity (5) ment sense (6) board members represent public institutions (Comunita ` Montana
Associations (16) Solidarity (1) Reputation /Identity (3) del Gargano, Ente Parco Nazionale del Gargano and the University
Relational Positions/ Knowledge/Shared of Foggia), the others correspond to a professional association
Roles (2) information (4)
Rules (3) (Coldiretti), an industrial association (Confederazione Nazionale
Artigiani) and the remaining four board members represent
tourism and agro-food consortiums. Finally, the group contains five
Table 3 categories and the network diversity value is quite low (0.22), while
Key features of the studied LAGs. the representativeness of border of directors index reaches a high
Features Gargano Meridaunia Daunofantino Piana del level (0.67) (about 70% of the joint stock is represented). Public
Tavoliere corporations prevail holding about 72% of the joint stock repre-
Number of municipalities 11 17 4 6 sented. The ‘‘Comunita ` Montana del Gargano’’ and ‘‘Ente Parco
Surface (km ) 1365 1600 582 830 Nazionale del Gargano’’ hold most of the share stock (even if it is
Inhabitants 95,820 79,823 89,526 93,291 lower than 50%). Once again, this suggests that the LAG is promoted
Population density (per km ) 67 48 153 113
Rate of pop. var. (%2001– 3.8 2.7 0.4 0.9 by public institutions to compensate for the lack of private enter-
2006) prises. The ‘‘Comunita ` Montana del Gargano’’ and ‘‘Ente Parco
Rate of unemployment (%) 24 21 22 21 Nazionale del Gargano’’ were crucial in the mediation process
Number of partners 24 60 29 102 between the several municipality interests of the area.
Public 3 29 9 13 Daunofantino appears weaker than Meridaunia and Gargano in
Private 21 31 20 89
Number of BD members 9 12 4 3 group diversity and representativeness. The directorate is
Number of Staff members 4 5 5 5 composed of only four members. Specifically, two members belong
Total cost (euros) 4,925,000 5,978,000 5,922,640 6,334,200 to municipalities, one to a professional association (Coldiretti) and
Total cost per inhabitants 51 75 66 68 one to an enterprise. Finally, only three categories are represented
and this reflects a network diversity index of 0.14. In addition, the

68 G. Nardone et al. / Journal of Rural Studies 26 (2010) 63–72

Fig. 1. Location of the Province of Foggia in Italy.

representativeness of border of directors index is lower (approxi- in supporting cooperation and exchange mechanisms, we tried to
mately 0.15). The public predominance is also evident in this quantify its presence by applying the network density of trust rela-
structure. In fact, 92% of the represented share is public. tions index. Results are relatively high since the average value of
With regards to group diversity and representativeness, the trust in the four LAGs is 0.63. Meridaunia shows the lowest value
weakest situation concerns Piana del Tavoliere. Its directorate is the (0.41), the LAGs Gargano and Daunofantino are closer to the
smallest one as it is constituted of only three members belonging to average value (0.61 and 0.67 respectively), while Piana del Tavoliere
three categories: industry association, trade association and coop- shows the highest value of trust (0.83). The trust index seems to
eratives union. The network diversity index is 0.18 despite this LAG have an opposite trend compared to the directorate size. The larger
having the largest corporate structure made up of 102 partners. the group the lower the value of this index. This is consistent with
Furthermore, Piana del Tavoliere has the largest amount of requests the social capital theory, which considers group closeness a source
(V 6,334,200 while the average amount is V 5,800,000 per LAG). of social capital as it supplies network rules and effectiveness of
This feature contrasts the level of representativeness of border of sanctions. When these elements occur within a group, ‘‘free rider’’
directors index which is only 0.01. behaviour is discouraged, while an expectable behaviour is likely to
be found. However, it is important to notice that a reduction in the
5.2. The relational dimension number of members of the several directorates elicits an increase in
the strategic valence of the interviewees’ answers. A small group
A further element which was investigated is the relational feels the need to give ‘‘politically correct’’ answers. This occurs
dimension of the LAGs’ social capital. As trust plays an essential role when interviewees are afraid that their responses will foster future

G. Nardone et al. / Journal of Rural Studies 26 (2010) 63–72 69

Fig. 2. The four LAGs in the Province of Foggia.

contrasts. Therefore, the high level of this index should be sector (in particular, enterprises and professional associations),
considered with caution. while Gargano belongs to the public sector. This could depend on
With regard to trust, other reflections can be stimulated by the ‘‘young age’’ of Gargano. In the initial stage promoters had
looking at the way in which it varies among each member of the a crucial role and, for Gargano, this role was played by the public
directorate. Meridaunia and Gargano show opposite conditions. agencies. In order to reduce the distrust of the private entrepre-
The more expectable subjects in Meridaunia belong to the private neurs, they encouraged the formation of a heterogeneous group
with a shared objective. On the contrary, the Meridaunia group is
older and the lower level of trust granted to public exponents could
The related indicator is the in-degree, that is, the number of times in which an
actor of the network receives a fiduciary relationship. In this case, a director
receives a fiduciary relationship when he has been granted trust from the 9 Specifically, they are two over-municipal authorities (Comunita ` Montana del
respondent. The out-degree counts the number of times in which an actor grants Gargano and Ente Parco Nazionale del Gargano). They receive more trust than
trust to other actors. That is the number of trust ties declared by the respondent. others. In fact, they have the highest in-degree trust relations.

70 G. Nardone et al. / Journal of Rural Studies 26 (2010) 63–72
be linked to the fact that the group was in a phase of consolidation members. This might be the reason why Meridaunia showed the
(the role of the public sector is largely exhausted) that has now best performance in the information flow index. As a result, the
entered into a new stage, which requires more autonomy from the frequency of BD meetings increased and a common vision of
public agencies. Observations for Daunofantino are consistent with problems and strategies was developed. The weaknesses of Piana
this. Notwithstanding its recent establishment, trust prevails del Tavoliere (low representativeness and affinity) could be con-
among the private members. The level of trust of each lag is only nected to conflicts and tensions between different interests in the
one aspect of its social capital, therefore it should be analysed past. The contradictory positions assumed by the actors led to
jointly with other characteristics. a recent and hasty rearrangement of BD, with heavy consequences
on the affinity relations between its members. Finally, Dauno-
5.3. The cognitive dimension fantino and Piana del Tavoliere are too narrow and their weak-
nesses mainly relate to the structural dimension of social capital,
The last dimension we investigated is the affinity of thought which is not particularly diverse or representative.
among members of the LAG. It is linked to the cognitive component
of social capital and is a crucial factor to reduce risks connected to 6. Concluding remarks
the performance of a common project. Examining the results of the
network density of affinity relations, it is surprising to note that the The discussion presented in this paper is about an innovative
lowest level of affinity (0.12) regards Piana del Tavoliere, which approach to the measurement of social capital in rural development
shows the highest level of trust. The second lowest indicator (0.29) policies, especially in the context of the EU LEADER Programme. In
concerns Meridaunia, which is also the largest group. High levels of order to achieve a correct methodological conceptualization of the
affinity are found in Gargano (0.36) and, above all, Daunofantino idea we started from a clear decomposition of the social capital
(0.44). No directorates show levels of affinity exceeding the concept breaking it down into three specific dimensions: structural,
measure of 50%. This suggests that proposed ideas and strategies relational and cognitive. On this basis, specific indexes for each
are only partly shared. dimension were developed. In addition, a global index summa-
rizing the three dimensions of social capital as a weighted average
5.4. The global social capital over the other indexes was built. This method was then applied to
all the LAGs in the Province of Foggia.
Looking at the employed indexes, the effects of the local The measurement method introduced in this paper represents
implementation of the LEADER Programme are various and con- a step forward for a more rigorous and systematic assessment of
trasting in terms of social capital (Table 4). The best result regards social capital’s endowments and consequences in the specific field
Gargano (0.47), followed by Meridaunia (0.41), while Daunofantino of area-based development policies, and broadly contributes to the
and Piana del Tavoliere show lower values (0.36 and 0.28, more general debate on measurement of social capital. The used
respectively). approach, indeed, allows researcher to overcome some problems
This depends on the specific features of each group. Some and limits commonly affecting social capital empirical studies.
groups are better endowed with the structural dimension of the Among these, one of the most important arises from the diffuse
social capital, specifically in realizing the principle of the opening use of ‘‘indirect’’ indicators, not representing the social capital’s
and equilibrium of the representation, while others have better core components identified in the theoretical literature. Usually,
cognitive and relational features. On the whole, the most important these indirect indicators are outcomes of social capital – such as
result seems to be the presence of trust among actors. crime rates, volunteering, membership in organizations, voter
The different endowment of social capital within the four LAGs turnout, blood donation – and are used instead of a direct
is the result of various interaction processes among the members of measurement of its core components. The recourse to this practice
each BD. The appreciable status of Gargano’s social capital depends is largely encouraged by a chronic absence of data on social capital
on both its representativeness and trust relations. It is important to itself but at the same time it has led to a considerable confusion of
highlight the relevant role of the public actors which historically what social capital is, what it does and what may be the relation-
fostered relationships and cooperation. With regard to Meridaunia, ship between social capital and its outcomes (Fine, 2001). Overall,
interviews with informed people highlighted a change in the BD’s this practice could be useful to understand the consequences of
relations. In particular, in the first stage board members were not social capital rather than its presence, composition and dynamic.
very informed about the LAG activities and sometimes missed the Moreover, this exposes social capital studies to tautological criti-
meetings. This caused a certain disintegration of the group. In order cism since research reliant upon an outcome of social capital as an
to solve this problem, an internal communication plan was indicator of its presence will necessarily find social capital related
implemented with the aim of involving and informing the group’s to that outcome. On the other hand, in the specific field of rural
development empirical studies mostly use a qualitative approach
focussing on specific case studies. This is an interesting method for
Table 4 understanding many important characteristics of community
The social capital in the four LAGs.
mainly linked to the context. However, since the analysis of quali-
Indexes Gargano Meridaunia Daunofantino Piana del tative data needs an interpretation of the research, it is relatively
difficult to consider the corresponding findings representative,
1. Network diversity – [NTd] 0.22 0.56 0.14 0.18 comparable and generalizable. This could be an important obstacle
2. Representativeness of BD – 0.67 0.23 0.15 0.01
[R BD ] in the use of qualitative studies for setting a systemic assessment of
3. Network density of trust 0.61 0.41 0.67 0.83 the phenomenon. Finally, those few studies adopting a more
relations –[D T ] computational approach, employing for instance the social
4. Network density of affinity 0.36 0.29 0.44 0.12 network analysis tool-set, focus solely on the structural aspect of
relations – [D A ] social capital overflying its normative and cognitive dimensions,
5. Effectiveness in information 0.56 0.68 0.61 0.42
flow– [Com] which are as crucial.
The method presented is an attempt to overcome these limits
Global social capital 0.47 0.41 0.36 0.28
and bridge some of the gaps in the literature. Firstly, the

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