New research from our collaborative programme – working with the British Academy, Power to Change, and the Bennett Institute for Public Policy – publishes today.

Chaired by Dame Julia Unwin, this programme explores the features and socioeconomic impact of ‘social infrastructure’, examining how it contributes to communities’ wellbeing, helps develop resilience, and tackles deepening geographic inequalities.  

Social infrastructure represents places – such as local libraries, village halls, pubs and community centres – as well as crucial organisations and support structures that enable communities to form and sustain relationships that help them thrive.  

Today sees the publication of three reports – Social infrastructure: international comparative review; Community perceptions of social infrastructure, sharing peer research from around the UK; and Space for Community: Strengthening our Social Infrastructure. The latter brings together the programme’s findings and sets out considerations for policymakers and sector leaders to help ensure social infrastructure is effective. These are to:  

  • make social infrastructure open, accessible and inclusive  
  • include community voices to understand local concerns and demands   
  • account for and manage tensions between the different purposes of social infrastructure   
  • pay close attention to and harness the private sector’s role in shaping and providing social infrastructure.  

Dame Julia Unwin, Chair of the programme’s Advisory Group, said:  

“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of social infrastructure in times of crisis, as well as the unequal impacts of such crises on different communities. As we face a ‘polycrisis’ of interconnected social, economic, health, and climatic challenges, it is more important than ever to prioritise and invest in the infrastructure that helps communities thrive. This research programme has studied the importance of social infrastructure in communities internationally and in England, finding that social infrastructure is central to providing hope and support for communities, particularly when led by individuals with a deep understanding of and connection to those communities.”    

Helen Goulden OBE, Chief Executive of The Young Foundation, which powers the Institute for Community Studies, said: 

“A fairer future that works for all UK communities requires investment in social infrastructure, recognising that parks, libraries and other public spaces matter to people’s lives and contribute to their health, happiness and engagement in civil society. This vital research – the product of strong collaboration between the Institute for Community Studies at The Young Foundation, Bennett Institute for Public Policy, Power to Change, and the British Academy – provides evidence to inform policy change and help steer the government’s mission to level up.” 

Read our collaborative research here.

Institute for Community Studies Posted on: 25 January 2023


Community research

We are a not-for-profit tackling societal issues with a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach.

Contact our team

Social innovation

Involving people from diverse sectors to shape game-changing initiatives.

Find out more