Social and Cultural Infrastructures

The British Academy's social and cultural infrastructures work engages with a growing body of evidence on the critical role of spaces, services and structures that support thriving communities, address deepening spatial inequalities and contribute to recovery from COVID-19.
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The theme explores the importance of social and cultural infrastructures for policymaking and how social and cultural infrastructure policy interventions can address deepening spatial inequalities and contribute to recovery from COVID-19. Social and cultural infrastructures refer to the spaces and structures that bring people together and strengthen the social and cultural fabric of our communities. It has been brought to the fore by the British Academy’s work on ' Cohesive Societies' and the ' COVID Decade' evidence review and policy reports. 

These programmes showed the importance of understanding the role of identities, norms and cultural practices within communities and the cross-cutting role they play in the development of social and cultural infrastructures. There is a wealth of SHAPE expertise available to support research on different aspects of social and cultural infrastructures and their role in improving the wellbeing and resilience of communities across the UK.

Social Infrastructure

The programme centres on a collaborative research project in partnership with Power to Change, the Institute for Community Studies (ICS) and the Bennett Institute at the University of Cambridge. The project is exploring international policy interventions that aim to strengthen social infrastructure to draw out learning for UK policymakers, alongside peer research into community definitions and understandings of social infrastructure in the UK.

The research includes engagement with international policy stakeholders and regional events in the UK, involving communities, civil society organisations and local policymakers. It sits alongside a series of roundtables aimed at exploring the importance of social infrastructure for key policy challenges including Levelling Up, COVID recovery and access to digital infrastructure.

The Academy has released a call for discussion papers that will further explore social and cultural infrastructures and policymaking as part of the next stage of its work in this policy area. Researchers interested in submitting a discussion paper can find further details in the Terms of Reference.

Understanding Communities

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The British Academy is drawing on insights from six policy research projects funded as part of the Understanding Communities collaboration with the Nuffield Foundation. Over the next two years, the six projects will engage with communities to improve our understanding of the characteristics that make some communities more vulnerable or resilient than others, and will inform policy and practice on how communities can improve social wellbeing across the UK.

The British Academy and the Nuffield Foundation will be delivering a programme of policy synthesis, translation and engagement across the duration of the funded projects to promote understanding and learning between research teams and engage relevant stakeholders in the wider body of evidence produced.

British Academy and Wellcome health policy workshops

In collaboration with Wellcome, the British Academy is currently undertaking a series of workshops to explore the future relationship between health policy topics and research in the humanities and social sciences. Each of these events brings together a select group of researchers, policymakers and practitioners. The key aims of this collaboration are to create a space to explore the importance of the humanities and social sciences (HSS) to health policy, to challenge existing health policy frames, and to begin to set an agenda for HSS-inclusive health policy.


Space for community: strengthening our social infrastructure

The British Academy and Power to Change came together in early 2022 to explore questions relating to social infrastructure.

Social infrastructure: international comparative review

This international comparative evidence review examines what constitutes ‘social infrastructure’ in the UK and internationally.

Social infrastructure: community perceptions of social infrastucture

The British Academy and Power to Change came together in early 2022 to explore social infrastructure in different communities.

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