This article examines survey and focus group transcripts of a well-established early years literacy project in Scotland in light of contextual information about changing local authority policy in order to look at the gains in social capital identified by participants and the extent to which these indicate lasting durable change that will reap later benefits for both individuals and the community in which they are situated. Contextual information provides the basis to examine the interlinking dynamics and resources of a network of volunteer and statutory organisations that support the project and raises questions about how its benefits will be sustained should that network be seriously undermined by the changing policies of local and national government authorities. In analysing the issues at stake in sustained empowerment, a comparison is made with Bagley's work in a contrasting early years project in England. The article questions the appropriation of the metaphor of capital to the dynamics of social relations, particularly when issues of trust are at stake. Trust, it is argued, is of particular importance in decisions about how linking capital can be said to be reinvested. By looking at layers of data the conclusions that might be reached relying on statistical measures alone are problematised.