As the relationship between the nonprofit and government sectors evolves to accommodate the shift to devolution of government services, new collaborations are forming to increase resources. These collaborations illustrate the shift towards network governance and the accompanying increase in participatory democracy (deLeon 1992). Community networks are perceived as tools for helping build and sustain democratic, civic cultures. Using a networkbased approach to measure social capital, this research explores the relationship between the AmeriCorps*National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and the nonprofit groups with whom it works to understand how public policy can support nonprofit-government collaborations designed to strengthen communities in terms of civic engagement and development and to determines whether the NCCC’s goal— to “strengthen the ties that bind us together as a nation”—by collaborating with nonprofit groups has been successful. The focus of this research is the community-level interrelations within the nonprofit community. Explored are the relationship between community networks, social capital, and democracy. This type of relationship is called “state-society synergy,” that is, the “mutually reinforcing relations between governments and groups of engaged citizens” that can construct social capital within communities (Evans, 1996: 1119). Using the AmeriCorps NCCC program as the empirical subject, I examine the way sponsoring nonprofit communities handle resource allocation and strategic planning to construct social capital and strengthen the connections among the community that are often credited to an increase in social capital (Jacobs, 1961;
White, 2002). A social network analysis of the four communities prior to engaging in a relationship with the AmeriCorps NCCC is compared to the analysis after the community engages in the collaboration. Changes in the strength of ties, centrality, and structural holes, as well as correlations between strength of ties, trust, and influence are discussed as an indicator of the affect of the collaboration. The results show that the intervention of the AmeriCorps NCCC program can foster an increase of weak ties and structural holes in the communities that they partner with.
Vogenbeck, D. (2007). National service impacts on nonprofit community networks (CSD Research Report No. 07-11). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.