The ABS (2004) Information Paper: Measuring Social Capital - An Australian Framework and Indicators, 2004 (cat no. 1378.0) introduces and discusses a framework in which various elements of social capital may be measured.
The active involvement of people in the community, be it as volunteers or as participants in activities with a community benefit, is one of the underlying concepts of social capital.
The three elements of the framework are social participation, civic participation and community support. Social participation is participation in inherently enjoyable activities valued in their own right, either formal, provided by organised groups, or informal with family and friends. Civic participation is involvement in activities reflecting interest and engagement with governance and democracy, such as membership of political parties and trade, unions and professional associations, serving on committees of clubs and associations, contacting members of parliament, and attending community consultations. Community support is the provision of assistance, usually in the form of services or opportunities for participation for individuals, groups and the wider community. Many people are active in providing support to the wider community through voluntary work in clubs, associations and organisations (ABS 2004). However, all types of community or social involvement that involve some form of social exchange may be considered to contribute to social capital.
A key concept underlying social capital and discussed in the framework is the concept of 'community'. The framework considers several meanings of this term but those of direct relevance include:
- communities of identity where there are cultural ties
- communities of interest where activities are shared
- intimate communities of families and friends
- communities defined by location or geography.
The social capital framework also observes that closely bonded groups are most likely to be trusting, share common values and provide material and emotional support to members of the group. It is not useful, though, to limit 'community' to closely bonded groups (ABS 2004). Trust is one of the qualities of networks listed as an element of social capital, and generalised trust and feelings of safety at home and in the local community are suggested indicators of trust for which there are available data.
This section presents information about the broader involvement of volunteers in the community, their involvement as members of a community and other community activities that they undertake. It also includes information on the levels of trust and feelings of safety of volunteers and non-volunteers.