Networks of Support—a Well-being Indicator Worth Measuring

December 14, 2020

When The Fedcap Group launched the Metrics That Matter initiative in 2012, our intent was to rigorously and frequently measure things that, well, mattered. We were invested in measuring more than the data we were obligated to track, or even data that we had historically tracked. We sought data that would teach us about the real impact of our work—real indicators of long-term economic and social well-being.

Research tells us that well-being indicators include access to health care, having enough to eat, a safe and stable place to live, a steady job, money in the bank, and having a reliable network of support.

The concept of network of support has taken on new meaning in the days of COVID-19. Many are realizing how much they miss the connection they had with their friends and family. They liked having someone to rely on—and they liked being that someone to another individual. Research tells us that mutual exchanges of social support are a critical component of well-being. Human beings do not thrive, absent of supportive relationships. They help us cope with problems, manage the ups and downs of life, and reduce isolation. In crisis situations, this network is invaluable. A helpful network can make the difference between making it through a crisis or falling off the proverbial cliff.

Many of the people served by The Fedcap Group do not have a well-developed support network. It could be that they have moved a great deal and it was challenging staying in touch. They may not be in a good place and are ashamed to reach out, or perhaps they just don’t have the energy it takes to sustain a relationship. This lack of a supportive circle takes its toll.

I first became acutely aware of the gap in supportive networks when we launched our efforts to help youth transitioning out of foster care, enter and graduate from college. Few of the young people we served had stable family relationships. They had moved from foster home to foster home, they had been assigned many different social workers, and had gone to as many as eight different schools. They had NO network to rely on—and it resulted in homelessness, joblessness, dropping out of college and so on.

To change the outcomes for these young people, we introduced Networking by Design™. While not as organic as building personal networks over time, it was effective in jump-starting networks of support. Networking by Design leveraged the generous time and talents of our Board of Directors, by creating opportunities for young people to connect with them and with influential members of the business community. Today, nearly 10 years after we launched our first Networking by Design event, many of those relationships continue and they have fundamentally changed the lives of both our youth and adult participants.

Establishing a network of social support is not simple. So many of the individuals we serve do not trust easily—they have been repeatedly let down by family and friends. Yet, at The Fedcap Group we believe it is worth the investment of time and energy to help the individuals we serve develop the skills to build and sustain a circle of support. We’re committed to this goal: that 100% of the people who leave our programs, across every company of The Fedcap Group, have an identified, reliable, healthy network of support.

And we are measuring it—because we believe it matters.