Effective development happens when financial capital and social capital are combined appropriately.

Financial capital is needed, obviously, for things that need to be bought. But there are things that can't be bought.

Social capital provides those things that can't be bought - reputation, trust, local knowledge and networks, fluency in local languages, understanding of (and being part of) local culture, vision based on insights about local opportunities and challenges.

The disconnect

Sadly, but understandably, there is often a disconnect between financial capital and social capital. The disconnect can be particularly challenging if the financial capital and the social capital are separated by thousands of miles, as for example in UK funded projects to be implemented in hard-to-reach areas in sub-Saharan Africa (such as the locations we know through Dadamac Foundation).

Extreme disconnects

There are two extremes of this disconnect.

At one extreme are financially rich projects, where money is misdirected, and therefore wasted, through lack of social capital. Such projects can provide wonderful equipment, and some impressive short-term measurable outcomes. However, if there is no social capital there is no depth (and possibly no relevance). There is nothing to draw on when the money runs out. A sad waste of time and effort, and a waste of financial capital.

On the other extreme are socially rich projects, where there is an abundance of knowledge, networks, vision, commitment to the long-term benefit of the community, and imaginative solutions to problems. The effort put in, however, is constantly undermined through lack of financial capital. Without the necessary material resources everything is a struggle, progress is much slower than it could be, and key people become exhausted. The project keeps stalling and never achieves its full potential. Another sad waste of time and effort, and a waste of social capital.

Connecting the resources

It makes sense to bring the two together. Imagine combining the time, effort and financial capital of a financially rich organisation with the time, effort and social capital of a socially rich organisation. What a great model that would be for effective, relevant, international development projects.

Recognising and overcoming the barriers.

In the past it was hard to overcome the disconnect between financial capital and social capital. Communication between the UK and Africa was slow, expensive, and impractical for many projects. Fortunately the Internet and mobile phones have changed that.

There are still problems. It's not quite as simple as the hype would suggest, but there is a great transformation taking place.

Communication channels are open. The disconnect between financial capital and social capital can be ended. Social and financial capital can flow together. If there is willingness on both sides. Projects with social capital are well aware that they need finance. It's less obvious that projects with financial capital have the humility to recognise that they need social capital.

Practicalities

The work done by Dadamac with Fantsuam Foundation (FF), illustrated through Nikki's blogs from 2008-2012, demonstrate that effective communication and collaboration are possible at a distance. It's not, however, just a simple matter of exchanging email addresses or phone numbers.

There are many communication glitches to be addressed, and they are not just technical, they are also social. The internet may represent "the death of distance" from a geographic perspective, but it's not the death of distance from the perspective of cultural differences. These social challenges need to be recognised and negotiated. The ideal is to create an online meeting space which is equally accessable to everyone, from the technical point of view, and which is equally culturally comfortable to all. That's the ideal. Of course we live in the real world and compromises have to be made, but it is good to know the ideal that we strive for.

The work of Dadamac Foundation with Fantsuam Foundation is work between Dadamac in London and FF in Kaduna State in Nigeria, but the findings from that work aren't just local, they are widely relevant. The barriers we have faced, both technical and social, and the issues we have addressed, are common across the continent.