The three dozen people who participated in a Monday forum on social capital may already be ahead of the game.
After all, social capital is about coming together and making connections with other people in your community. And that's precisely what happened Monday night at the Lawrence Visitors Center.
Social capital, participants agreed, means everyone in the community feeling included.
"It is the interaction between individuals and among groups, which leads to the integration of citizens into a community," said Mayor Mike Rundle, a forum participant. "Integration is more than tolerating it's really bringing them in."
Dan Wildcat, another participant, offered a different label for the concept.
"Social wealth," he said, "is the opportunity to participate. Period."
Some of the participants said Lawrence is already rich in social capital, with such offerings as the Farmers' Market, neighborhood associations, faith groups, sporting events, a popular downtown, arts festivals and community schools.
"When you're out walking," Mike Harrell said, "a lot of people will wave at you."
But other participants said more can be done.
"Having a living wage would be a great way to contribute to social wealth," Wildcat said, saying that many capital-building activities are costly for the poor. "There are a lot of things most of us who are making a living wage take for granted."
Others said the city should create more neighborhood gathering places and events, perhaps offer more green spaces and parks for people to meet one another and keep officials responsible when they make decisions counter to building social capital.
"A good example is the Band Day cancellation," Larry Kipp said.
The main element in building social capital, several said, is getting people out to meet one another.
The forum was part of The World Company's "Lawrence is Growing: Finding Common Ground" series. A final forum will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 in Liberty Hall, where the results of previous forums will be presented to a group of community leaders.