, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 175-188
Date: 23 Feb 2008

Social Capital, Collective Action and Group Formation: Developmental Trajectories in Post-socialist Mongolia

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Group formation, social capital and collective action have been the focus of much recent attention amongst donors and policy makers. Optimistic scenarios highlight their contributions to poverty reduction and effective natural resource management. However, recent critiques have focused on the exclusionary potential or ‘dark side’ of groups and social capital. Not only are their longer term livelihood impacts unclear, but lacunae persist in our understanding of how social capital, especially trust, is built. This paper presents a longitudinal evaluation of trust, collective action and cooperation among herders in post-Soviet Mongolia in the context of recent donor projects. Results highlight the important catalytic effect of external interventions in overcoming a lack of trust and promoting formalised collective action, but only in the context of a particular conjunction of circumstances. Indications for livelihood outcomes confirm the differentiated benefits, exclusionary potential and fragility of social capital and new institutional forms.