What is social infrastructure?

“Social infrastructure” is the set of organizational arrangements and deliberate investments in society’s systems, relationships, and structures that enable society to create a resilient, just, equitable, and sustainable world; it includes social, economic, environmental and cultural assets.

Education institutions can use the idea of social infrastructure as a way to organize and communicate their efforts to create positive social change and sustainable economic prosperity. For faculty members, “social infrastructure building” is a useful framing to connect their teaching, research, and other public and project roles to efforts that build community capacity in the face of complex challenges.

There is a changing understanding of what it means to be “a public academic”.

“Dr. Margie Mendell, Professor at Concordia University, has many years of experience collaborating with social economy practitioners and many levels of government— municipal, provincial and federal. She was part of an advisory committee established by the City of Montreal that was instrumental in developing a “partnership agreement with the social economy” in 2009. Today, the City is one of approximately 30 public and private organizations that participate in a procurement program to purchase goods and services from social economy organizations.

More recently, Mendell was very proud that Concordia University became the first university to join this procurement program. Over the years, many of Margie Mendell’s students have worked as interns in social economy organizations; several chose to work in the social economy upon completion of their studies. The CHNGR program at Concordia University inspired many students to learn more about the social economy as they discovered the dynamic enterprises and organizations that contribute to collective and sustainable wealth in Montreal and elsewhere.

These are a few examples of how the link between the social economy, local government and the university are generating dialogue and contributing to new and dynamic learning environments. They are driven by a desire to explore, firsthand, those initiatives that are designing inclusive, citizen based socio-economic initiatives. Through her contribution to these different initiatives, Dr. Mendell shows how faculty members can extend the impact of their work beyond the campus into the broader community.