• Doctoral Thesis

    Young people, enterprise and social capital; these are the key elements of this thesis which describes the engagement of 10 Scottish young people in a project designed to encourage their enterprise and employability skills.

    This Thesis was submitted by Dr Marion Allison for the degree of Doctor of Education in the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stirling.


    In Scotland, current policy aims to produce work ready young people with relevant enterprise and employment skills. However, many are caught in a repetitive cycle of short term work placements with large numbers of young people still not at work or in education. Accordingly, this study was concerned with social capital in respect of young people’s outcomes from engaging with a youth work project, that was designed to encourage enterprise and employability skills.

    Using qualitative data drawn from a single site case study, this research develops an understanding of the extent to which different forms of social capital influenced young people’s outcomes. The thesis sets out a theoretical position that draws from Archer’s understanding of critical realism and social capital theory based on the works of Putnam, Coleman and Bourdieu. This approach suggests that the complex interactions between social structures, identities, material resources and cultural forms, enable or inhibit the emergence of social capital practices. An action research approach was applied and empirical work was based on observations and reflections of young people participating in an enterprise challenge. Data were collected via questionnaires, professional discussions and the observations and analysis of relevant documents.

    Overall findings illustrate the emergence of bonding, bridging and linking social capital in addition to identity, economic and cultural capital developments. However, changes within social structure were the hardest to detect. Whilst there are indicators of young people’s improved outcomes, findings suggest that conditioned socio-cultural stereotypes in respect of gender and class may be limiting opportunities. Shared reflexive practices and linking social capital may however provide opportunities to disrupt, and create new pathways, but should be treated with caution. Youth workers can develop and extend the reach of young people’s social capital practices and the thesis concludes by presenting a set of general recommendations that might serve to facilitate change.