Repairing our Social Fabric: Towards a new understanding of community strength

Author Onward

This report is part of the broader Repairing our Social Fabric programme, developed by the thinktank Onwards. The aim is to gain an understanding of how communities in Britain are changing. Communities and the relationships that are formed within them are central to everyday lives, and policymakers are increasingly interested in how these can be understood and supported, as public spaces, civic institutions, and social relationships are in fragmentation and decay.

Date added 27 September 2021
Last updated 28 September 2021

*This resource is about local community. It is not specifically about the High Street, but has been included in response to requests for more studies/information about this topic, as well as linking to experience and safety priorities for High Street vitality and viability*

Evidence shows that strong communities are translated into social and economic benefits, such as improved public health and mortality, reduced criminality, more dynamic economic activity, etc. But through the decay of public spaces and town centres, and through the uptake of technology that has offered hyperconnectivity but reduced physical relationships, communities are in decay. This report explores this decay in relation to five key areas: social trust and relationships; civic participation; satisfaction with one’s local area; local assets (such as libraries); and fragmentation of family structures.

This report provides findings of research conducted as part of the Repairing our Social Fabric programme and highlights six aspects of Social Fabric that are important to people: relationships between members of communities; physical infrastructure that can facilitate relationships, such as green spaces or libraries; economic value and tangible assets, such as housing; cultural behaviours, that is, living structures and habits of the people living in that community; and pride and belonging, that is, identification with the community (relating to trust, diversity, acceptance, etc.).

This resource explains that an analysis of these elements will be able to state whether a community is ‘frayed’ or ‘strong’. Going forward, the aim of the programme is to develop a Social Fabric Index to be able to measure the strength of communities in Britain and explore correlations between factors. Another aim of the programme is to be able to provide policy solutions to strengthen communities that are frayed.