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STRENGTHENING SOCIAL CAPITAL IN RURAL COMMUNITIES FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT

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Introduction

Social capital plays an important role in the regional and rural development strategies of the European Union (EU). Similarly, in our country, social capital has become a very important concept in rural development policies in recent years. There are a number of problems waiting for a solution in the rural areas in Turkey. We can briefly summarize some of these problems as follows: The number of both economic and social entrepreneurs in our country, especially in rural areas, is at a very low level, and their number and qualifications need to be increased. On the other hand, there are a number of problems related to the management of agricultural/rural organizations and human resources. There is also a need to strengthen rural governance and local capacity across rural areas.
Strengthening social capital is of great importance in terms of increasing entrepreneurship and its sustainability, strengthening rural governance and local capacity, developing social solidarit in rural areas and thus developing rural areas, ensuring regional development.
These E-Learning Modules have been developed within the scope of the Project titled “Strengthening Social Capital in Rural Communities for Rural Deveopment”, which was prepared and implemented  in order to contribute to the solution of the problems listed above, which exist in our country. The Project has been carried out within the framework of Erasmus+ Adult Education Program.
The learning materials of the E-Learning Modules consist of three intellectual outputs prepared under the SOCIALCapital Project. These are listed below respectively:
1 Intellectual Output II (IO2)  E-Learning Modules on Strenthening of Social Capital in Rural Areas
2 Intellectual Output III (IO3)  Short Videos
3 Intellectual Output IV  (IO4)-E-Book on “The Current State of Social Capital in Europe and Examples of Good Practices”
Learning modules and module titles are shown in Table 1 below. Under each module title in the curriculum section, there are module descriptions, short video(s) and relevant sections of the e-book, as well as module guide, module plan, forum questions, assessment section and a list of required and optional reading materials.

Table 1

Modules Module Topic
Module 1 Definition, different levels and dimensions of social capital
Module 2 Preconditions for a thriving social capital in the community in a regional contet
Module 3 Building and developing social capital through trust in a community/region
Module 4 Social capital and inclusion of vulnerable groups in rural development process
Module 5 The relationship between entrepreneurship and marketing and social capital in rural areas
Module 6 Networking cooperation and new alliances in rural development processes
Module 7 Civic Engagement and Integrated Rural Development
Module 8 Mediation and Conflict Management

BAB, 2022.

The first module on “The definition, different levels and dimensions of social capital” introduces the definition of social capital and explains some central terms such as “bonding”, “linking”, “bridging “ and “trust”. Furthermore, the historical development of the concept, approach and methods of social capital is discussed and its different levels and of dimesions are mentioned.
The trainees who complete this module will be able to grasp the concept and approach of social capital and understand why it is important for rural development and how important the concept of ‘trust’ is in social capital.
The second module, “Preconditions for a thriving social capital in the community in a regional context”, focuses on rural societies and their changing territorial characteristics. It analyzes how changes in rural society can affect rural regions and how these changes can be used as an opportunity for rural development.
Upon completion of this module, the trainees will be able to understand how rural societies function, their transformation processes and identify the different groups and relevant rural stakeholders involved in these societies.
The third module is titled “Building and developing social capital through trust in a community/region” and it mainly analyses the relationship between the development of social capital at local and regional levels and the concept of ‘trust’. In this section, it is emphasized that this concept is an essential prerequisite for formal and informal networks and participatory rural development programs and discusses ways in which it can be fostered.
By the end of this section, the trainees will be able to identify the main problems that groups will experience in the absence of trust and learn how to organize groups to build trust.
The fourth module, entitled “Social capital and the inclusion of vulnerable groups in rural development processes”, emphasizes the importance of inclusion of vulnerable individuals and groups for integrated rural development approaches. Moreover, the benefits of inclusion of vulnerable people are illustrated and how this process can be achieved in integrated rural development approaches is discussed.
Upon completion of this section, trainees will gain knowledge on unequal power relations in rural societies, the needs of different vulnerable groups and awareness of the potential of vulnerable groups such as rural women, youth and the elderly.
In the fifth module, “The relationship between entrepreneurship and marketing and social capital in rural areas”, the relationship between entrepreneurship and marketing and social capital is explained and food supply systems are mentioned and in this context, Short Food Supply Chains are explained.
It is aimed that the trainees will have knowledge on entrepreneurship and marketing in rural development processes when they complete this section.
The sixth module is titled “Networking, cooperation and new alliances in rural development processes” and under this section, networking and cooperation in rural development processes are explained. The important components and prerequisites of networking and cooperation in the context of rural development are discussed briefly, and its benefits for the rural economy are emphasised. In addition, the collaborative innovation approach that has been put forward recently in EU is defined in this section and reference is made to the LIAISON project, which is an international project carried out on this subject.
Upon completion of this module, the trainees will focus on how rural residents can create added value through networking and cooperation, and will learn how to network, collaborate and create new allies.
The seventh module on “Civic participation and integrated rural development” addresses the issue of integrated rural development and civic participation and discusses good governance and welfare approaches, related basic principles and tools and methods for good governance.
At the end of this module, the trainees will learn to recognize relevant stakeholders for the purpose of implementing good governance and refer to the economic, environmental and social dimensions of an integrated rural development.
Within the framework of the eighth module titled “Mediation and Conflict Management”, mediation and conflict management issues are explained in their basic dimensions.
Upon completion of this module, trainees will acquire basic knowledge on the concept of conflict in rural societies, various strategies for conflict resolution and develop skills for their implementation. They will also learn about the constraints to the effective management of conflicts.
The ninth module includes Short Video (s) and E-Book sections that are not included in other modules.
I hope that these E-Learning Modules prepared within the scope of the SOCIALCapital project will be useful for all stakeholders interested in the subject, including those working on social capital issues, those conducting researches in rural areas, decision makers, students, those living in rural areas.

Nilgün Gümüşay
Project Coordinator

Module - I Definition of social capital and its different levels and dimensions

Module - II Prerequisites for a thriving social capital in society in a regional context

Module - III Building and developing social capital through trust in a community / region

Module - IV Social capital and the inclusion of vulnerable groups in rural development processes

Module – V Relevance of social capital for entrepreneurship and marketing in rural areas

Module - VI Networking cooperation and new alliances in rural development processes

Module - VII Civic Participation and Integrated Rural Development

Module - VIII Mediation and Conflict Management

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