Thoughts and proposals

From a human capital to a social capital approach to brain gain

Date: 11 septembre 2006 - Imprimer cette page
The "brain-drain/brain gain" situation in Colombia suggests the need to give more thought to building a "social capital approach to brain gain".

Ximena Castro Sardi, Colombian member of the DKN project

X. Castro Sardi has identified different types of incentives aimed at encouraging members of Colombia’s diaspora to actively engage in "brain gain" activities. She has classed these incentives in two groups : those that favour a social capital approach to brain gain and those that favour a human capital approach to brain gain.

A social capital approach to brain gain considers that expatriates are there”, in their country of residence, actively engaged in a variety of socio-technical networks which are a potential source of knowledge and skills for use “here”, in their countries of origin. The expatriate isn’t an “individual brain” but more a “networked brain”, that is, a person who is capable of drawing upon the social capital available through his or her individual networks.

This social capital approach benefits from growing recognition by receiving countries. For example, countries such as the Netherlands with its Front Office Program, France with its “Forum des Organisations de Solidarité Internationale Issues de la Migration” (FORIM) and Great Britain with its Connections for Development program are actively assisting diaspora members in their efforts aimed at network building for their countries of origin.

In order for a social capital approach to brain gain to become effective in sending countries such as Columbia, one would expect positive answers to the following types of questions :

-  Do programs explicitly assign diaspora members the task of mobilizing their networks behind development projects ?

-  Are there funding, travel or other incentives which would help diaspora members to mobilize their host country networks ?

-  Are rewards given to diaspora members who successively build bridges between home country and host country networks ?

While some evidence does exist that the social capital approach to brain gain is gaining momentum in Colombia, X. Castro-Sardi found that the human capital approach remains very much the centre of attention. The accent is placed more on “the return of the individual brain” by offering diaspora members incentives to return to Colombia, or by providing them with specific recognition of their individual knowledge and skills through consultancies, teaching engagements or expert assignments.