You may be familiar with the term “social capital”— the concept commonly used to measure people’s relationships and networks. It has been used for many years as a way to emphasize the importance of people in an organization or community. While this concept is important, what has often been overlooked is the public space that people need for this interaction to take place, known as the Social Infrastructure.
Social Infrastructure is featured in a recent Atlantic article titled, Worry Less About Crumbling Roads, More About Crumbling Libraries. As author Eliot Klinenberg writes:
“Public institutions, such as libraries, schools, playgrounds, and athletic fields, are vital parts of the social infrastructure. So too are community gardens and other green spaces that invite people into the public realm. Nonprofit organizations, including churches and civic associations, act as social infrastructure when they have an established physical space where people can assemble, as do regularly scheduled markets for food, clothing, and other consumer goods.”
Read the rest of this fascinating article on the Atlantic’s website. If you enjoy it, look for Klinenberg’s book, Palaces of the People: how social infrastructure can help fight inequality, polarization, and the decline of civic life at your local library.