Learning and building social capital in a community of family farm businesses
This paper analyses the processes that occur in a 'learning community' of Australian family agricultural businesses for evidence of use or generation of stores of social capital. The purpose of analysing processes that use or build social capital is to derive a framework or checklist of stages and characteristics that can be used to analyse the extent of social capital use and generation in other communities. The qualitative design is suitable for a study such as this, which investigates possible relationships and influencing factors concerning learning and changes to farm management practices. Data collection involved observing a learning activity session and interviewing 12 members in a focus group during the session and subsequently 14 individually at their farms. Data were analysed for themes and coded with the assistance of NUD*IST qualitative data analysis software. An understanding of how what is identified as social capital can be built in a formalized learning programme can be used to facilitate social capital building; in other formal learning settings, as well as more widely. The findings of the study reported here and findings from studies of informal learning in geographic communities have contributed to the development of the Centre for Research and Learning in Regional Australia's model of the simultaneous building and use of social capital. The model, presented in this paper, conceptualizes the way in which social capital is used and built in interactions between individuals.