The rationale behind creating memorable brands in a society as complex as Afghanistan is multifold. It requires an impetus to develop any momentum towards sustainable development in any of the multitude of resources that create an environment fertile enough for progressive growth across multiple sectors. One way of achieving this task in Afghanistan is through developing Social Capital at the core of its society to encourage Afghans to take ownership of the developments happening in and around their communities.
Often explained through identifying “norms of reciprocity and mutual trust” within a community, ‘Social Capital’ is said to comprise of resources available to individuals and groups through their connections to social networks. Social capital is both an attribute of individuals, and of communities. Social scientists describe the outcome of increased levels of community social capital directly affecting the extent to which people expand their scope of concern beyond self-interest and beyond their family to include the community as a whole.
Social Capital is known to stimulate reconsideration of the significance of human relations, of networks, of organizational forms for the quality of life and of developmental performance. It is charged with a range of potential beneficial effects including: facilitation of higher levels of, and growth in, gross domestic product (GDP); facilitation of more efficient functioning of labor markets; lower levels of crime; and improvements in the effectiveness of institutions of government. Social capital is an important variable in educational attainment, public health, community governance, and economic problems, and is also an important element in production. Economic and business performance at both the national and sub-national level is also affected by social capital.
Afghan social and political stakeholders understand the importance of ‘Social Capital’. The tribal structures like the locally established Shuras are considered social capital networks, playing an integral role in maintaining regional social development, security and governance.
Communications Strategists working with for-profit clients have traditionally been on the fringe of creative strategies that might prove to be catalysts in informing the packaging and production of content to instill social change, if implemented. Rarely is such a move embraced in the private sector, and for valid reasons. Business is Business, the client would say. However a slight segue into collective community development is possible under the egis of such frameworks in the presence of local stakeholder. A marriage is not entirely out of the question.
How difficult is it for a creative communications strategist to develop concepts to embed the concept of collective responsibility across popular and accessible media in impoverished societies? Can curated campaigns strategically positioning community development, ownership and coexistence attribute to an increase in social capital? Can this be a win-win situation?
Our work in Afghanistan has the potential of answering some of these questions. Working with local stakeholders, the project evaluation signifies an increase in overall ownership by Afghans from all regions. Embedding a sense of ownership in the populace through brand ambassadors or message multipliers is just one way of maintaining longevity beyond the service itself. This is entirely possible under the egis of local stakeholders and partners.
In the next part of this essay, we shall discuss the specific communication methodologies that might pave the way for a gradual increase in Social Capital; and a stable, empowered and evolving Afghanistan.