Building Bridges Through Talk: Exploring the Role of Dialogue in Developing Bridging Social Capital

  • Linda Doornbosch-AkseEmail author
  • Mark van Vuuren


This chapter examines the role of dialogue in building connections across socio-cultural and ideological divides. Applying the lens of dialogue, it seeks to promote bridging social capital in an increasingly fragmented and polarized society. Social capital is often seen as the glue that holds societies together. The central idea of social capital is that social networks and relationships matter, and provide individuals and groups with useful and beneficial resources in two ways. Bonding social capital refers to horizontal ties between individuals within the same social group who are similar to each other. Bridging social capital refers to ties between individuals or social groups who are dissimilar and which cross socio-economic and cultural divides. For a stable and healthy society, both forms of social capital are needed, but especially bridging social capital is important for reconciling democracy and diversity. Moreover, social relationships with others have a positive impact on individuals’ well-being and life-satisfaction. This chapter explores the crossroads of two related, yet separated, areas of scholarship, namely social capital and dialogue studies. By reviewing their literatures and identifying areas where these disciplines might be brought together, it aims to demonstrate how dialogue can be used as a positive intervention to create bridging social capital. It will show how characteristics of dialogue foster the process of relationship building between people who are different. However, to successfully intervene in the formation of bridging social capital, it is crucial to consider the context in which it is built and maintained. Therefore, research needs to examine the purpose (why), the places (where), and the people (who) in the process (how) of building bridging social capital. As communication is crucial to cultivate relationships, this chapter asserts that creating bridging social capital is essentially a communicative accomplishment. The underlying long-term and challenging goal of building bridges through talk is to promote a more inclusive, empathetic, civil, and compassionate society.


Bonding Bridging Mutual understanding Social capital Social inclusion polarization Trust 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands

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