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.

Educational 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. Presidents of postsecondary institutions, and others responsible for institutional vision and leadership in the education sector, will find some new and valuable opportunities here for their institutions to increase their impact and build social infrastructure for Canadian communities.

 

Effective storytelling creates opportunities for people and departments to see the potential for social infrastructure building in what they are already doing.

 

Framing the opportunity

Canada’s advanced education institutions have historically played an important role in shaping Canada’s broad economic, governance, and social systems. These systems have produced less-than-optimal outcomes, like climate change, rising income inequality, destruction of Indigenous cultures, resource scarcity, and ecological degradation. Overcoming these issues to achieve sustainable, shared, social, and economic prosperity and to achieve reconciliation with Indigenous peoples will be a complex, interdisciplinary, and multi-sectoral effort—one that includes changing the state of social infrastructure. Advanced education institutions, by virtue of their influence, expertise, and other assets and resources, are well-positioned to support this change.