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. Communicating this work is an important factor in its success.

Postsecondary institutions prosper by being master storytellers.

Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) operates under a mandate from the Nova Scotia government to improve the economy and quality of life for Nova Scotians. Over time CFO and Vice President of College Services, Monica Foster, has been pushing the envelope on what this means in practice. Originally guided by a relatively simple drive to “do what’s right,” the NSCC leadership team’s approach has become more sophisticated. Now, they intentionally work toward building economic resilience and community wellbeing in the region, informed by frameworks like the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

VPs Finance like Foster often have large and diverse portfolios that contain a multitude of opportunities for impact. Foster’s efforts have included (and are not limited to) changes to the built environments of NSCC campuses, changes to administrative services, changes to staffing and procurement policies, and the building of trusting relationships with local businesses. Taken together, these make an impact not just for the people the College interacts with directly, but for the whole community and region.

This paper will use “VPs Finance” to refer to all those who are responsible for directing the financial and administrative affairs of their institutions, but in recognition that specific titles and responsibilities vary widely by institution. Regardless of title, this group will find here some new and valuable opportunities for their institutions to increase their impact and build social infrastructure for Canadian communities.