Drawing on research in nine cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America, evidence of local-level networks and associational life is analysed, to assess where benefits accrue when they are harnessed in the interests of city governance. Adopting a critical approach to the concept of social capital, it is concluded that the social resources of the urban poor (family, kinship, social networks and community-level organization) are as much an asset for urban development institutions and processes as they are for the poor themselves. Although urban government and other development agencies may draw upon the social resources of poor communities and benefit from or respond to public action, this does not mean that they depend on them. Although public action is important to ensure local democracy, social capital, it is concluded, does not guarantee pro-poor governance.
International Planning Studies (2001) 6 (4) 357-375 [DOI: 10.1080/13563470120092377]