Despite being terms frequently used when discussing policy, it’s not always clear what is meant by social capital and social infrastructure – or why they are so important for local communities. The 225 neighbourhoods identified by APPG research as being ‘left behind’ have a social infrastructure deficit, defined as suffering from poor connectivity (physical and digital), low levels of community engagement and a lack of places and spaces to meet. Securing foundational investment to boost social capital and build social infrastructure will be essential to improving social and economic outcomes for the 2.4 million residents of these communities.
- Dan Gregory independent advisor and researcher
Dan authored a key essay on social capital: Skittled Out: the collapse and revival of England’s social infrastructure
Watch Dan’s presentation to the APPG
- Anna Hunter Project Worker, Tang Hall
Anna’s grassroots community work with Tang Hall Big Local was covered in the Daily Telegraph, September 2020
Watch Anna’s presentation to the APPG
- Will Tanner, Director of Onward
Will is a co-author of Onward’s landmark research report The State of our Social Fabric, published September 2020
Watch Will’s presentation to the APPG
APPG Session 2 briefing
This briefing provides members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods with an overview of the importance of local social infrastructure, and its relationship to building social capital.
Social capital and why it is important
- Measuring Wealth, Delivering Prosperity. The Bennett Institute for Public Policy, University of Cambridge (2020). This is an interim report analysing the value of understanding social capital as a form of wealth, evaluating the impact that increased trust in communities has on our society and our economy.
- Social Capital in the UK: 2020. ONS (2020). Figures on the levels of trust and social capital in the UK at the start of 2020 in addition to Research note COVID-19 and the community. Onward (2020). Survey results depicting the renewed sense of community in the immediate wake of the COVId-19 pandemic.
- The revenge of the places that don’t matter (and what to do about it). Andreas Rodriguez-Pose, London School of Economics (2017). Rodriguez-Pose argues that the Brexit vote was a reaction by those places that have seen their social fabric slowly eroded. It emphasises the political fall-out linked to the decline of social and cultural capital in left behind areas.
- Social capital, trust and well-being in the evaluation of wealth. National Bureau of Economic Research (2016). This paper uses data from 132 countries across the globe to analyse the benefits of improved trust between residents on national wealth. They find that the welfare returns, particularly for health benefits and income security, to investing in trust could be substantial.
The state of social infrastructure today
- Britain’s lost spaces: A New Statesman Series. Anoosh Chakelian (2020). The New Statesman tracks the decline of the public realm through vanishing community buildings and spaces.
- Below the radar: Exploring the grants data for grassroots organisations. 360Giving and NCVO (2020). This research analyses grants data to better understand the value of informal grassroots organisations operating below the usual regulatory and administrative radars. The research found that these organisations make up a rich and thriving sector of nearly 13,000 organisations that received grants between 2016 and 2019.
- Repairing our Social Fabric, Towards a new understanding of community strength. Onward (2020).This report highlights the broad changes that have happened to community in the UK over the last forty years, emphasising the decline in Britain’s social fabric.
- The state of our Social Fabric. Onward (2020). This report estimates the strength of community over time and in every local authority in the UK.
- Understanding Community Resilience in our Towns. Hopeful Towns (2020). This report sets out the serious issues that Britain’s towns are facing, both from the threat of COVID-19 and the long-term decline of industry and community. It emphasises that the key to resilient towns begins by providing the opportunity for people to come together and form connections.
- Our Assets, Our Future: the economics, outcomes and sustainability of assets in community ownership. Power to Change (2019). This report maps the community-owned assets across the UK, setting out the value that they add to our social fabric and our economy. It finds that community-ownership is a growing, sustainable and valuable sector of our economy.
- Skittled Out? The collapse and revival of England’s social infrastructure. Dan Gregory (2018). This essay looks at the impact that having no places to meethas on a community and highlights the work being done in several Big Local areas to rebuild a sense of belonging to the community.