Community Capital Tool

The Community Capital Framework

There are myriad ways to understand and conceptualize community. For sustainable community development (SCD), we find it useful to think of community in terms of capital, a number or collection of local assets that can produce other benefits through investment of financial and non-financial resources (Roseland, 2012; Emery, Fey and Flora, 2006). 

                            Source: Roseland 2012

At our Centre, we use six nuanced forms of Community Capital (CC) in our research:

  1. Natural capital – the natural environment, ecosystem services
  2. Physical capital – infrastructure, the built environment
  3. Economic capital  – financial  and income-related
  4. Human capital – people’s knowledge, skills and health
  5. Social capital  – citizen engagement, organizations, relationships
  6. Cultural capital – heritage, values, language, food, etc.

This is the backbone of the Community Capital Framework, which seeks balance between all six forms of capital. These forms of community capital are informed by social sciences, economics, natural sciences, and ecological economics. In pursuing balanced development, we need to ask whether each form of capital benefits from a proposed initiative or the current status of each capital in a particular neighbourhood or community.   

For more than 15 years, we have used the Community Capital Framework in a variety of community types – big, small, rural, urban, developed, developing – and geographic locations – North America, Latin America, Eastern Europe – with resounding success. The framework resonates with different communities because it encourages participants to think strategically and holistically with regard to existing capacity, sustainability principles, and potential long-term impacts of specific projects, policies, and activities.

CC Balance Sheet and Scan

The Community Capital Tool (CCTool) comprises two related instruments, the Community Sustainability Balance Sheet and the Community Capital Scan.  The Balance Sheet provides an evidence-based ‘snapshot’ of the sustainability of a particular community (neighbourhood, city, region, rural community, etc.)  The Scan is for use in participatory planning, allowing a community to consider the effects of particular decisions / proposed projects on each form of community capital.  

We first started working on an early version of the CC Tool in 2005.  In 2009 we joined forces with Telos Sustainability Institute at Tilburg University in the Netherlands to refine and further develop the CC Tool.  Telos has made a significant impact in the Netherlands and in other European countries in sustainability planning.  Indeed, all 403 Dutch municipalities are now using some version of the tool developed by Telos. 

Our CC Tool was launched in 2012, in conjunction with the publication of the 4th edition of Dr. Roseland’s book Toward Sustainable Communities: Solutions for Citizens and Their Governments.  

The Community Capital Scan is available free online here in English.  It is also available in Spanish and in Portuguese. 

Current Research Projects

The Community Capital Tool has become a centrepiece of the research program at the SFU Centre for Sustainable Development and associated researchers in the SFU School of Resource and Environmental Management.  Several projects using the CCT are currently underway.  

CC Tool and Community-based Enterprise in the Andes

Gretchen Ferguson (Senior Researcher)

Typically, enterprise success is measured only in terms of financial profitability, invisibilizing its positive or negative impacts on the social, cultural, and environmental well-being of communities and individuals. Likewise, local economic development measurements emphasize the financial dimensions of community well-being, such as the number of businesses, number of jobs, average incomes of residents, etc.  This applied research moves beyond financial approaches to connect the community-based enterprise and its viability to the well-being of the community as a whole, in economic, human, social, environmental, physical, and cultural terms.  The research builds from the Community Capital Framework (CCF) by developing indicators to assess the impacts of six community-based enterprises in Bolivia and Ecuador on their communities and on individual households.  The case studies include collective enterprises owned and managed by indigenous peoples (Aymara, Quichua, Tacana) allowing for deeper understanding about the dynamics of indigenous entrepreneurship in the Andean region.  

CC Tool and the (in)Visibility of Ecosystem Services    

Angela Christina Lara (PhD Candidate)

The economic invisibility of ecosystem services for development projects have been pointed out as a problem that could be solved by putting a price on nature, helping stakeholders and beneficiaries to realize the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services for them. However, ecosystem services value can go beyond the perceived economic value and the monetary price of goods and services. For instance, if we consider rural communities which, in general, depend heavily on natural resources at their local catchments, show a monetary as well as a non-monetary economy, strong cultural ties with the environment, and a remarkable difference in gender and generation perspectives, the value meaning can be quite enlarged. This research applies the Community Capital Framework, incorporating the gender and generation perspective, to investigate the complexity and the interconnections between ecosystem services and the 6 capitals and their stocks/requirements at the community level. Through a comparative analysis of two distinct communities displaced and resettled, 13 years ago, due to one hydropower plant (implementation and operation) in the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil, this research aims to contribute in refining the CC Tool application for rural development projects, helping in reducing trade-offs, in achieving balanced sustainability at the local level, and in building synergies across sectors in rural areas.

CC Tool for Land-based Aquaculture

Elizabeth Mosier, Jake Bastedo, Jeff Lemon (MRM Candidates)

Resource and Environmental Management Masters students from the SCD Research Group are working with the Nanwakolas Council in Campbell River to assess land based aquaculture for sustainable community development.  The group is using the community capital framework integrated with Nanwakolas Council's own community development goals to holistically assess the impacts of a land based shellfish or finfish operation.  Around the world, aquaculture is gaining attention as a sustainable method of seafood protein production in a time of increased population pressure and compromised seafood stocks.  Land-based aquaculture is unique in that its closed contained nature isolates it from surrounding ecosystems, and modular systems can be located in a range of locations. This project aims to better understand the tradeoffs and potential of land based aquaculture for the coastal First Nations represented by Nanwakolas Council.


Among the recent research outputs of the Centre relating to the Community Capital Tool are:

  • Bird, K. (2015). Neighbourhood Sustainability Assessment: Connecting Impact with Policy Intent, SFU School of Resource and Environmental Management.  (Available from the SFU Library)
  • Ardis, L., Hernandez, G., Mollinedo, A. (2015). Scanning for Sustainable Community Development in the Bolivian Highlands, Western Geography, 20&21.
  • Ardis, L. (2015). Laneway Revitalization Through The Lens Of Community Capital. SFU School of Resource and Environmental Management Project No. 594. (Available from the SFU Library)
  • Lowery, B. (2013). Entrepreneurs for a Sustainable Renewal: Community Capital in Greater New Orleans and the Impacts of Sustainability Entrepreneurship, SFU School of Resource and Environmental Management Project No. 573. (Available from the SFU Library)
  • Lowry, J. (2012). Community Capital Pilot Project in the District of Sechelt, SFU School of Resource and Environmental Management Project No. 544. (Available from the SFU Library)