The British Academy launches second phase of programme focussing on social and cultural infrastructure

1 Dec 2023

The British Academy has today launched the second phase of its social and cultural infrastructure programme. A major part of this phase is a new project to be delivered by the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge aiming to explore how to measure social and cultural infrastructure.

Social and cultural infrastructure refers to the spaces, services and structures that bring people together to impact a community or region’s quality of life and resilience. The importance of this became apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic and has featured heavily in the British Academy’s COVID Decade reports and in its Cohesive Societies programme.

The research undertaken by the Bennett Institute will focus on how social and cultural infrastructure can be measured to improve understanding of its purpose, presence, scale and value. It will also consider strategies for presenting these measurements in an accessible way, allowing for a clear understanding that can inform effective policymaking.

Other activities within this second phase will include a roundtable and policy workshop series exploring the role that different institutions and actors play across sectors in sustaining and building social and cultural infrastructure, and also how this infrastructure can contribute towards tackling specific policy challenges.

This is the second phase of a wider policy programme on social and cultural infrastructure, and builds upon a joint report by the British Academy and Power to Change ‘Space for Community: Strengthening our Social Infrastructure’, which explored how social infrastructure contributes to communities’ wellbeing and helps tackle deepening geographic inequalities.

Professor Dominic Abrams FBA, Academic Lead on the Social and Cultural Infrastructure programme at the British Academy, said:

“We are delighted that the Bennett Institute will carry out this vital work focused on the measurement of social and cultural infrastructure. Alongside this project, the Academy will undertake a range of activities examining the role of institutions in different sectors in developing and sustaining resilient social and cultural infrastructure that is able to successfully respond to future crises. Together, the project on measurement and the Academy-led activities will enable us to explore how we can best create, support and enhance social and cultural infrastructure.”

Professor Michael Kenny, Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, said:

“For the last few years, the economic, social, and civic value of social infrastructure has been a major focus of our work at the Bennett Institute, and we are delighted to be working with the British Academy again on this important topic. Understanding the spaces, places, and facilities – both physical and virtual – which undergird the fabric of communities and shape the lives of citizens, is of particular significance in the context of the cost-of-living crisis and weak economic growth. This new research programme will draw on the inter-disciplinary strengths of the Bennett Institute, and will include economists, political scientists and philosophers working together to develop a framework for the measurement of social and cultural infrastructure.”

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