Bonding and Bridging

In his 2000 widely influential study, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert Putnam studied social capital – resources that build and support positive social interactions within a community. He compared two kinds of social capital: bonding and bridging.

Bonding social capital is generated by Good Causes – schools, faith communities, service clubs, even bowling leagues – by attracting people who bond with each other and with the purposes of the organization. Such Good Causes, however, also build bridges to other Good Causes to sustain a ripple effect of good works among a wider and wider community of good people doing good things together.

Schools, for example, sponsor sports teams, clubs, performing groups, and service organizations which expand the learning opportunities of their students and attract attention among parents, friends, and the larger community. Churches, synagogues, temples, and other faith-based organizations sponsor a wide array of charitable and nonprofit initiatives to support people facing poverty, warfare, disease, homelessness, and natural disasters. Service organizations like Kiwanis International and Rotary International generate financial support for similar Good Causes while also supporting their local communities through volunteer activities.

Taken together, all this bonding and bridging behavior has given rise to a robust and growing network of Good Causes circling the planet. In recent decades, nonprofits and charitable activities have grown faster than government-based activity and business activity.

Our Better Angels strives to support both the bonding behavior between individual people and the schools, faith communities, and service organizations they join and the bridging behavior that generates links between and among those organizations. To expand the process, we encourage member Angels to set leadership examples and invite other people to join the OBA Community on behalf of their own favorite Good Causes.

Our $20 basic Citizen Angel  annual membership dues may seem like a drop in the bucket, but if each member Angel invites just two other members, then an original membership of just 25 people will become a global population of 50,000 Angels in just ten repetitions, and their dues will generate more than $1 million in annual support for the Good Causes they select. That may seem like a miracle, but it’s really just simple math (25 times 2 to the tenth power).

As Margaret Mead once noted: “Never doubt the power of a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens to change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”