Making a Good Place: How to invest in social infrastructure

This report by Community Links focuses on actions people can undertake to improve their local places. It is aimed at national or local politicians, public bodies or anchor institutions, voluntary sector umbrella bodies or community-based charities, charitable foundations or think tanks. It focuses on the importance of inclusive, sustainable, and accessible social infrastructure.

Date added 10 September 2021
Last updated 10 September 2021

*This resource is about social infrastructure. 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 the networks, liveable, and vision priorities for High Street vitality and viability*

This report by Community Links focuses on actions people can undertake to improve their local places and draws on lessons from four case studies: Bristol, Barking and Dagenham, Exeter, and Feltham (London). It is aimed at national or local politicians, public bodies or anchor institutions, voluntary sector umbrella bodies or community-based charities, charitable foundations or think tanks.

The report starts by putting forward the case for investing in social infrastructure now, arguing that places are experiencing inequalities and deprivation, and that COVID-19 has worsened these situations. However, the report points to this as an opportunity to recognise the issues and build better resilience by investing in social infrastructure. The report explains social infrastructure with the following characteristics is needed: real influence (by local people), accessibility (physically and in terms of affordability), inclusivity, and sustainability. Additionally, the report highlights some things all communities should have:

  • Good, genuinely affordable housing
  • The services every place needs to thrive and support people when things go wrong
  • Physical spaces and places
  • Activities
  • Community hubs.

Drawing on the case studies, the report highlights five key elements that are significant to success:

  1. A collective, long-term vision, created with and regularly reviewed by local people ensures local needs are met.
  2. Shared leadership bringing together cross-sectoral resources in the area, with investment in a ‘super connecting’ function to help make this happen.
  3. Community participation in decision making ensures that investment genuinely serves those it aims to help.
  4. Local government is an important player, but anchor institutions such as schools can play a pivotal leadership role.
  5. The important role of charitable foundations and trusts.

The report concludes with recommendations for local placemakers and local government, with an emphasis on long-term approaches and support from national government.