Building a Better Life

“In general terms, social capital represents social connections and all the benefits they generate. The benefits for people having these social connections can occur either at an individual level (for example, through family support) or at a wider collective level (for example, through volunteering). Social capital is also associated with values such as tolerance, solidarity or trust. These are beneficial to society and are important for people to be able to cooperate.” (Veronique Siegler, 2014)

Why are we doing this research?

“Few data exist that could be used to evaluate the contribution of social capital to specific public policy issues.” (Franke, 2005)

The purpose of this research is to raise awareness and understanding of social capital’s impact on well-being. We believe that increased awareness and understanding will result in changes to public policies and services so that social capital is increased, the value of belonging is recognized, and community well-being is strengthened.

Structure of project

  • Three-year grant (July 2015 to June 2018) - NorQuest College and Edmonton Public Library
  • Engaging community as collaborators (41 to date)
  • Mixed methodology (interviews, case studies, focus groups)
  • Three rounds of data collection (spring 2016, winter 2016-17, fall 2017)
  • Focus on immigrants and Indigenous Peoples
  • Aggregate data to be shared with collaborators
  • NorQuest College is responsible for data security
  • Collaborators to review and reflect on drafts as available
  • Abide by Tri-Council ethics

Community-based participatory research

  • A team of community participants, community workers, and researchers identify issues
  • Methodology shaped by community
  • Research findings shared with community for reflection and understanding
  • Community input shapes subsequent rounds of research
  • Team guides how findings are disseminated and reported

The research cycle

  1. Data collection
    1. Hiring research assistants grounded in community
    2. Reflection from collaborators and community members at each stage of research program
    3. Supports in place for RAs and participants as required (psychological/emotional)
    4. Incentives/support for participation (e.g. food, childcare, transportation)
    5. Informed consent, privacy
  1. Data analysis
    1. Researchers and research assistants will begin sensemaking
    2. Participants and service organizations will review and reflect on aggregated data and draft reports using diverse lenses
  2. Report writing
    1. Written document for reporting purposes to Social Science and Humanities Research of Canada
    2. Present in multiple ways and formats to tell the story of the research and the outcomes
      1. E.g. diagram, story/narrative, ceremony, interactive map at the library because it is a democratic space
    3. Opportunities for involvement of participants and organizations
  3. Sharing the body of knowledge
    1. Must reflect who, what, when, where, why, and how
    2. Must be intentional, accessible, meaningful
    3. Celebrate the knowledge

We are committed to…

  • Love, respect, wisdom, courage, honesty, humility, truth
  • The values of social justice: do no harm and beneficence
  • Compassion, kindness, intentionality, reciprocity
  • Recognizing the value in all contributions: from collaboration of openness to exploration, reflection and (spontaneous) learning
  • Acknowledging power imbalances and making efforts to decrease them
  • Communication that is accessible to all: plain language, learning styles

What will come out of this research?

Participants will:
  • Recognize themselves in the research, and will have “ownership”
  • See the results in their own learning and belonging
  • See that the project has created ongoing supports
  • Gain recognition of personal responsibility for healing
Service providers will:
  • Have more knowledge about services that are driven by client needs
  • Find support to seek further funding for service and research
  • Be part of an established group for further on-going collaboration
The broader community will:
  • Recognize the value and importance of belonging
  • Pursue more ways for people to connect to community and more places to develop meaningful relationships
  • Gain expertise and relationships to engage in further research
  • Build stronger links to NorQuest College and the Edmonton Public Library as community resources
The research community will:
  • Have data related to social capital, loneliness and belonging
  • Have research results that will inform community practice and policy
  • Elevate their position to collaborate with other researchers

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

In partnership with:

Edmonton Public Library
Edmonton Public Library


Robert Marvin (NorQuest Social Work)
Marlene Mulder (NorQuest Research Office)
Soleil Surette (Edmonton Public Library)

Research Coordinator:

Zaina Sleiman-Long

For more information:

Marlene Mulder 780.644.5970
Robert Marvin 780.644.6417