Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Diversification of Social Investments

During tax time, one can't help but think about finances. However, I find the topic a rather tedious one. It comes as no surprise, then, that I found my mind wandering away from the numbers and into other realms such as social capital--specifically, investments of a social nature. If you were asked to describe your cadre of friends and acquaintances in terms of an investment portfolio, what would you say?

Have you invested your resources into a series of "pre-set mixes"--default groupings determined primarily as a matter of convenience, but somewhat aligned with your prevailing perspective on social investment? After all, it is easy to add the people who occupy the places in which you spend the most time (church members, colleagues from work, neighbors, etc.) to your portfolio of acquaintances. Then again, perhaps you make your social investments based on the degree to which you can comfortably and easily slip into a pre-defined role? The adult world isn't all that different from high school in this regard. There is always some person or organization looking for someone to be their all-star athlete, cheerleader, coach, clown, teacher, techie, etc.

Perhaps you prefer to have a bit more control over your social portfolio, so although you avoid the pre-set mixes, you play it safe--investing in very stable, low-risk, but also low-yield friendships? On the other hand, maybe short-term, high-yield relationships constitute the majority of your social portfolio? This strategy can be risky, and requires constant vigilance and adjustment.

I have also been thinking about the recent credit crisis, market crashes, and ensuing recessions. It seems to me that these events also offer lessons about social relationships. For example, one-sided friendships are not generally sustainable when crisis hits. One cannot live on social credit (i.e., indebtedness) in the long term any more than one can indefinitely live on financial credit. Putting all one's eggs in the same social basket carries its own set of risks and potential consequences. It not only makes us vulnerable when a crisis, emergency, or natural disaster shakes the social group, but also limits our access to information, new perspectives, and ultimately, to growth. And how is a person to recover who has been burned when a "company" in which they have invested everything fails and there is no bailout available to salvage the relationship? And on a larger scale, what about social recession? What happens when people stop participating in the social economy, when they are afraid to invest in the larger social economy, or when they withdraw their social resources from society?

My own musings have led me to the conclusion that it may be time to diversify my social portfolio. This has some pretty interesting implications--in terms of how to identify potentially worthwhile investments, how much to risk, and the degree to which it is possible to protect against catastrophic loss.



Lucia- insert creative nickname said...

Might I just say that Ratliff and Associates would love to handle a greater portion of your investment. We have years of experience in the social field and deeply appreciate quality investors such as yourself. Call anytime for a free trial.


Cherice said...


You are SO witty. I should also say that anyone else who takes you up on your free trial should definitely request the corned beef and cabbage option, followed by tunnel singing. It is an investment package that definitely yields high happiness returns! ;-)