#006: Al Condeluci & Keenan Wellar on Social Capital

April 10, 2017

al condeluci and keenan wellar social capital building relationships for improved well being

This week we have two guests on the Empowering Ability Podcast to discuss social capital! Returning to the podcast is Keenan Wellar, Co-Leader and Director of Communication, of LiveWorkPlay, and speaker on developmental services. New to the podcast is Al Condeluci, CEO of Community Living and Support Services (CLASS), professor at the University of Pittsburgh, author of 7 books, and international speaker (including a TED Talk on social capital).

In this episode, Al shares his story of how he became a disability advocate starting as a young man, on the hillside just outside of Pittsburg, with his cousin Carrie, who happened to have Downs Syndrome. As a kid, Al noticed that people outside of his family treated Carrie differently – much like I did with my sister Sarah. Al went on to do disabilities studies at school, and was involved with creating equal rights for individuals with a disability in the United States including; education, housing, and transportation to name a few.

Keenan shares his story and the journey of LiveWorkPlay in Episode 1. Read and Listen here.

So what is Social Capital? Put simply, social capital is the network of relationships that a person has in their life that enables them to function effectively in society. (Al provides a more in-depth description of social capital in the podcast.) Al points out that social capital is important for everyone, but especially so for people that experience isolation, such as families and individuals with disability. We are changing from the institutional, isolation, and deficit beliefs of the past to inclusion, social capital, and abilities beliefs that will carry us forward.

Al tells us that empirical data is needed to inform policy change. Studies have shown that social capital had far reaching benefits, including improved prosperity, improved health & happiness, and a longer life-span. Recently, Al was involved with the first research study of social capital with individuals with a disability (218 individuals). As expected, the results of the study pointed to a deficit in social capital for people with a disability, when compared with the general population. 

So how do we improve a person’s social capital?

Al provides a 4 stage framework:

1) Understand the person’s interest and passions

2) Find where these activities exist in the community

3) Learn the expectations of a person in these settings, and educate

4) Find the local gate keeper

(More detail on this framework is provided in the podcast and in Al’s book ‘Social Capital: The Key to Macro Change’)

Keenan and the team at LiveWorkPlay are doing the hard work along side their clients to increase social capital. Keenan shares the story of Chris, a young man with an intellectual disability, who was told he could no longer play on his soccer team. The LiveWorkPlay team worked with Chris to find him a new team that would be inclusive and accepting of what Chris brought to the team. Chris ended up not only increasing his social capital, but he is looked at by the team for his valued contribution to the group. Keenan says a measure of success is ‘Did they go out for beers with the team after the game?’. According to the picture to the left, Chris was very successful! 

What you will learn in this episode:

– Discover social capital

– Learn why social capital is important (for everyone)

– Learn the 4 stage framework to increase an individual’s social capital

– Hear the story of how Chris increased his social capital

How to contact Al Condeluci:

Website: http://www.alcondeluci.com/

Contact: http://www.alcondeluci.com/contact/

Location: Pittsburg PA, USA

How to contact Keenan & the LiveWorkPlay team:

Website: http://liveworkplay.ca/

Website: https://keenanwellar.wordpress.com/

Contact: http://liveworkplay.ca/contact-us/

Phone: 613-702-0332

Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


Research Study – Canadian Journal of Disability Studies: ‘Somewhere to live, something to do, someone to love: Examining levels and sources of social capital among people with disabilities’ Click Here

Interdependent Network: www.buildingsocialcapital.org

Al Condeluci’s book: ‘Social Capital: The Key to Macro Change’ 

Al Condeluci’s TED Talk: Social capital and the power of relationships

Love & Respect,


The podcast is available on iTunes and Podbean (android) so that you can listen while on the go from your smartphone!

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