Social capital is incredibly important to communities of place; this type of capital is made up of the social relationships that facilitate collective action in the particular place as well as the networks, norms, and trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit. Sometimes it may seem that social capital is challenging to facilitate, but CBOs are what allow the community residents to have a place to permit social interaction. As we talked about in class, in Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone” (2000) he discovers that social capital flows from the individual community interaction to larger organizations and activities, like CBOs, and it ultimately affects the effectiveness of the community’s government and institutions. This further emphasizes the importance of social capital on all levels of interaction.
In Mahwah, NJ you can easily see the social interactions of individuals flowing up to the effectiveness of the community as a whole. As I have discussed in earlier posts, education and the school system are incredibly important to community members-often this is the reason that families move to Mahwah, for the well known and recommended school system. But community members don’t only interact about this on a personal level, their passion turns into them wanting to be a part of the decisions and actions taken by the schools. This is where the Mahwah Schools Foundation (MSF) makes all the difference. The MSF has been consistently identified as one of the best school foundations in New Jersey, and has raised and given back over 1.5 million dollars to the schools (Mahwah Schools Foundation Mission). This data point shows the incredible work that the MSF has done in only the past 16 years. The importance of the MSF is not what they do behind the scenes, but it is what they do with the community. The MSF is a place for community members to interact and discuss the school system that they deeply care about; there are many various opportunities for community members to participate. Any Mahwah resident can become a Full or Associate Trustee, or an Auxiliary Member. Full Trustees are full voting members and decide how grant monies are allocated, Associate Trustees are members of at least one fundraising or standing committee, and Auxiliary Members commit to assist to the MSF on an as-needed basis (Volunteer Opportunities). The MSF also serves as a place that increases interaction with other community organizations. The MSF works with the Police Department, Fire Department, the Municipal Alliance, the Rotary Club, the Sports Boosters, and the local government. This significantly increases interaction of community members from various social groups and aids in creating more social relationships and ties that facilitate collective action in Mahwah. Often, all of these groups get together to plan town events, like the annual Mahwah Day Parade, Dinner Galas, 5K Races, Veteran’s Day lunches, and more!
Mahwah Schools Foundation Mission (2016). themsf.org.
Mahwah Schools Foundation Volunteer Opportunities (2016). themsf.org.
Putnam, Robert (2000). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster.