social networks, ethnicity and poverty (PDF)

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Making the links - social
networks, ethnicity and poverty
JRF/EDF Research Network
11th November 2013
Purpose of research project
To investigate the links between social networks,
ethnicity and poverty
• How are networks established and maintained?
• How do they affect people’s experience of poverty?
• How do people use networks to move out of poverty ?
• What other factors come into play?
– education, affordable credit, housing, cultures and racial
• Poverty: having insufficient income and assets to
fully participate in the norms of social and economic
• Ethnicity: broadly defined – race, culture, faith,
origin/nationality, heritage….
• Social networks: the connections and interactions
with others that support participation, cooperation,
trust, social identity and community action
• Social capital: ‘Networks together with shared
norms, values that facilitate co-operation within and
between groups’ (OECD)
Research methods
• Birmingham, Liverpool and Cumbria
• Recruitment and training of 8
community researchers
• 91 interviews with community
• 28 agency interviews
• 4 scoping meetings with communities
• 3 social media workshops
• Observation sessions and visits
• Literature review
• 3 community feedback workshops and
1 policy seminar
How people benefit from networks
Emergency help
Finding jobs, recruiting staff
Getting accommodation
Sharing children’s clothes,
Access to affordable food
Short-term loans
Skills exchange – brokering
and bartering
Emotional support/comfort
• Business promotion
• Supply chains and potential
• Access to expert advice and
trades people (cheap or
• Savings and loans for
• Role models and mentoring
• Help with interpretation of
official documents
Barriers and limitations
Social and institutional biases
Racism; access to influential networks
Xenophobia – feeling rebuffed or uncomfortable
Language – vitality of English – and legal status
Community, individual disadvantages
Cost of networking (travel, gifts, socialising)
Lack of time and energy – shifts, childcare, etc.
Lack of confidence, self esteem
Tendency to stay within own community – lack of
access to well-paid jobs and good opportunities
• Peer and family pressures, family responsibilities
• Family ties cost money – dowries, remittances, visits
Motivation and methods for networking
• Strategies for finding the ‘right’ (useful)
• Being pro-active in keeping networks open
and growing
• Maintaining profile and credibility
• Getting and checking reliable information
• Providing a comfort zone, a ‘safe place’
• Enjoyment and affection
Different values and expectations
• Individualist
o Entrepreneurial
o Not waiting for things to
o Self-help
o Self-sufficiency
o Keep other community
members at a distance
o Localised reciprocity
• Collectivist
o Orientation towards
family and community
o Expectation of automatic
help in times of hardship
o Informal systems for
lending and borrowing
o Religious duties
o Strategy for survival in
harsh conditions
Gender and generational differences
• Impact of having children (but children as
‘assets to invest in’)
• Cost of childcare/other care responsibilities
• Cultural restrictions on women
• Expectations change across generations and
waves of ‘settlement’
• Access to (and familiarity with) information
Rural context
• Scattered BME populations: isolation, stress
• Lack of ‘critical mass’ for organising ethnic
specific community activities
• Predominance of (small) multi-ethnic groups
• Costs of travel to networking events
• Poor access to broadband
• Low pay, low aspirations for some
• People tend to stay close to families
Social media and the internet
• Increasing use of online information and applications
• Dedicated information and advice websites
• Facebook with pages for private and ‘ethnic’ community
• Twitter, email lists, Skype, QQ , Nasra Klasa, Facetime,
• E-bay and online trading – Made in Cumbria, R&J store –
Filipino goods
• Age, class and network awareness
• Digital disadvantage (rather than a clear ‘digital divide’)
• Language barriers
Agency perspectives
• Importance of
One to one advice (benefits, business etc)
Trust, reliability and ‘reach’
Access to affordable financial products
Financial literacy education (money management/debt
and savings)
Education (but NB parental attitudes)
Pre-network ‘mentoring’
Access to ‘vertical’ networks
‘Outwith’ immediate community networks
The cuts as ‘network disruption’
Main findings
• Importance of voluntary, community and faith groups
• The complexity of negotiating systems and the culture of
those systems
• Links between networks and informal employment
processes: ‘like with like’ networks can mean access to
(low paid) employment
• Inclusive and exclusive aspects of networks
• Networks mitigate poverty but are not the only (or most
important?) factor in moving out of poverty
• Other factors – access to funds and assets, education,
language skills, discrimination, fiscal policy, impact of
welfare reform
• Agencies/service providers do not systematically ‘use’
peoples networks in the advice/support process
Key issues
• Stereotypes of communities: independent and successful…
dependent and unsuccessful
• Cultural characteristics of networks: ethnic, class or
personality differences and family histories
• Networks in context: structure of labour market, fiscal and
related policies
• Deep versus broad networks (bonding and bridging capital)
• Impact of ‘network disruption’: divorce, loss of long term
employment/workplace; moving home
• Utility and/or trust? Reliability and emotion/commitment in
• Transaction costs and benefits of network membership
• In work poverty
• Access to face to face advice
• ESOL: addressing language barriers and space for
cross-cultural networking
• Promoting digital fluency: social media use that is
‘not only social’
• Volunteer opportunities as a way into employment
• Mentoring and peer support
• Role of community based organisations:
commissioning for ‘social value’
• Opportunities for developing ‘bridging’ networks
• What role can social networks play in
helping people move out of poverty?
• How can people be supported to
make more use of their networks to
improve their situations?
• Who needs to act to help this to
happen, and what do they need to
 Community and voluntary sector groups
 Employment services: Jobcentre Plus,
Work Programme providers, local
authority services, private and voluntary
sector services
 Others?
Thank you!
For further information or
discussion please contact
Angus McCabe
• [email protected]
• 0121 415 8561
Research Team
• Angus McCabe
Third Sector Research Centre
• Alison Gilchrist
Independent Consultant
• Asif Afridi
• Paul Kyprianou
Praxis CIC
• Kevin Harris
Local Level