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. VPs of Research, and others who are responsible for directing their institution’s strategic direction, investments, and partnerships for research, will find some new and valuable opportunities here for their institutions to increase their impact and build social infrastructure for Canadian communities.
How can you effectively build relationships between the institution and communities to the benefit and best interests of both?
For example: King’s University College contributed administrative support and existing research by faculty members to the creation of a poverty research centre that supports effective public policy and nonprofit interventions. The network and relationships around the centre, and the direct investment in the Centre, are examples of building social infrastructure.
It can be complicated to share academic research funding with non-academic institutions, e.g. non-profits or community groups, but it is possible for them to be co-applicants to tri-council grants. Supporting this kind of application, by making the time to create a CV or other paperwork on behalf of community partners (and by other means), is another example of building social infrastructure through the institution’s existing capacity to apply for and receive funding.