trans•act was commissioned and supported by the Ford Foundation to launch a new pilot study to build a tool that measures the social impact of farmers markets. The pilot phase of the Neighborhood Exchange Evaluation Device (NEED) research during the summer of 2007 accomplished the following:
To develop a paradigm that brings together the fields of markets and public health;
To develop an instrument with a set of indices to measure qualitatively and quantitatively the social capital impact that markets offer;
To investigate how building social capital impacts community health; and
To provide research-based programmatic recommendations to the NGOs and markets involved.
For our pilot resaerch, we looked at markets in New Orleans post-Katrina rebuilding zone in the US and the city of Santarém in the Brazilian Amazon. Both locations are rapidly transitioning communities—demographically, socially, economically and politically—that are experiencing tremendous changes due to hurricane devastation and deforestation, respectively. We made the assumption that markets are common institutions that might be able to operate in the intersection of economic activities (financial capital), community health (human capital) and trust (social capital). Through our research, we analyzed the processes of developing informal neighborhood networks that happen within markets’ space, to provide a possible micro-macro bridge. Further, we examined the market’s effect on the neighboring community, place-based or non-place-based, as a whole, not just within the market space.
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