Ford Seminar

Drinking Tea with the Neighbors: Informal Clubs, Social Trust, and Trustworthiness in Mali (VIRTUAL)

Watch the video of this event:

Jaimie Bleck
Associate Professor of Political Science
Senior Research Advisor,  Ford Program for Human Development Studies and Solidarity
Faculty Fellow, Kellogg Institute for International Studies

Jacopo Bonan
Assistant Professor (Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering), Politecnico di Milano 
Affiliated Scientist, European Institute on Economics and the Environment 
Fellow, Centro Studi Luca D'Agliano

This talk presents a paper that uses a mixed methods research design, including focus groups and experimental games, based on 18 months of fieldwork in Mali to explore the role of local social clubs called "grins." Drawing on social capital literature, we explore this under-researched type of civil society actors in urban Africa – informal, youth social clubs. "Grins" are ethnically-diverse, egalitarian groups that engage in reciprocal exchanges to provide support to fellow members. We demonstrate that membership in these groups is associated with heightened trustworthiness toward broader society. We use qualitative evidence to suggest that bridging mechanisms play a role in building this general trustworthiness. We also show correlations between behavior in the games and self-reported behavior in real life. Co-authors for this project are Jaimie Bleck, Jacopo Bonan, Philippe LeMay-Boucher, and Bassirou Sarr.

The Ford Program Research Seminar Series meets monthly, providing faculty members doing research supported by or related to the Ford Program's mission the chance to share their work, whether in early, middle or late stages of development. It is an opportunity for colleagues to come together in a friendly atmosphere to offer constructive feedback and perhaps come away with some new ideas for our own human development/human dignity-related research. The Seminar hopes to build intellectual community around the Ford Program's mission of conducting research that promises to deepen our understanding of human dignity and enhance the effectiveness of efforts to promote integral human development.