Organizational Membership versus Informal Interaction: Contributions to Skills and Perceptions that Build Social Capital

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Abstract

Participation in formal organizations has been considered a marker of social capital, but informal interactions may also provide social-capital relevant benefits. The current studies (N = 252 undergraduates; 60 adult members of a service organization) assessed skills, outcomes, and social-structural perceptions that may be developed from organizational or informal participation. Results suggested that organizations serve as potential training grounds for diverse types of civic participation; individuals hone their leadership and public speaking skills within the structures provided by organized groups. On the other hand, informal interaction also contributed importantly to social capital formation by fostering negotiating skill, the sharing of opinions, and companionship, and by creating networks of mutual obligation.

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