Frontpage  About
Paper info: Negative Effects of the Bonding and Bridging form of Social Capital in a Regional Strategic Network


Negative Effects of the Bonding and Bridging form of Social Capital in a Regional Strategic Network


Jens Eklinder Frick,
Lars Hallén
Mälardalen University
Lars Hallén and Lars Torsten Eriksson

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 27th IMP-conference in Glasgow, Scotland in 2011.


Download paper
(706.3 kb)


Purpose of the paper and literature addressed
Understanding the local socio-economic context is considered by Koschatzky and Kroll (2007) as a precondition for a well designed regional strategic network (RSN). Social capital is often used in research when analyzing such socio-economic contexts (Adler and Kwon 2002, Westlund 2009), and understanding the function and creation of social capital is therefore vital for implementation of policies on cluster initiatives and RSN.
Adler and Kwon (2002) claim that there are two different ways of creating value through social capital. These approaches are attributed to James Coleman and Ronald Burt, two key contributors within the field. Coleman (1988) claims that closure of the network structure (bonding) facilitates the emergence of effective norms maintaining the trustworthiness of others. In contrast to Coleman, Burt (1992) does not stress the utility of consistent norms as the main usage of social capital. He argues that a sparse network including few redundant ties (bridging) often provides greater benefits.
Social capital may involve norms and trust, but can also serve as a lock-in that isolates from the outside world by over-embedding a network in its own social context (Uzzi 1997, Gargiulo and Benassi 2000, Parra-Requena et al 2009, Molina-Morales and Martínez-Fernández 2009). Social capital might therefore not only bring positive effects to regional development, as its drawbacks under some circumstances might outweigh the benefits. Slotte-Kock (2009) argues that all network researchers agree that networks of social or business contacts provide both opportunities and constraints.
Main contribution
Molina-Morales and Martínez-Fernández (2009) and Adler and Kwon (2002) claim that there is a lack of empirical research particularly on the negative effects of social capital. The paper adds to the discourse through a case study focusing on the negative influence of social capital on the RSN process.
Research method
Representatives of the 15 companies included in an regional strategic network (RSN) project were all interviewed prior to the formation of the project in 2004 and interviewed again six years later (2010) when the formal network project was about to end. The longitudinal aspect of the RSN process is portrayed.
Research findings
The organizational lock-ins and network over-embeddedness that the bonding form of social capital might impose upon a network is exemplified in the studied RSN. It is also evident that existing social norms dominate the decision process within the studied RSN more than economic rationality. The creation of bridging linkages imposed by the management group resulting in low relevance of shared information.
Keywords: Social capital, bridging, bonding, regional strategic networks, cluster initiatives