Facilitating social networks

Communities where many residents have strong social links with others living nearby and where people are more likely to get involved in community orientated activities tend to be places with higher levels of resident wellbeing.

Lessons Learned

Where possible future residents should be identified in advance, to allow people to meet their future neighbours and make choices about the design of their homes.

See: Castle Vale

Community facilities need to be built at the start of a new community's life and supported to keep them running until the new community is established.

See: Walker Riverside

Local schools with a record of high achievement will be a particularly attractive reason for young families to move to a new community and to settle in the longer term.

See: Manchester

Using festivals and events to encourage people to come into a new community and meet their new neighbours can help kick-start the process of building social networks.

See: Manchester

There needs to be an individual or organisation that will be able to identify any emerging tensions in a new community and who can act as a catalyst to pull interested parties together to deal with them.

See: Limehouse

Questions to consider:

  • In areas close to existing communities, such as growth pointsGlossary: Growth Points are areas identified by the central government department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) as being suitable for housing development. , what levels of social capitalGlossary: the networks and trust between people that help a community work together towards shared objectives already exist in the area and how can new residents link up to these existing networks?
  • Where entirely new settlements are built where are the opportunities for fostering social networks, through shared interest groups, cultural activities, local schools, or new residents' associations?
  • Are there places that residents' associations and community groups can use to hold meetings? Are there places were residents might naturally meet each other and form these groups in the first place?
  • Are there safe green spaces that people can use to walk and sit and where young people can play?
  • Are there reasons for existing nearby residents to walk into the new community (or visa versa)?
  • Is it possible to identify future residents before they move in and invite them to an event like a festival?
  • Is there dedicated funding for community development and capacity buildingGlossary: refers to assistance which is provided to organisations or individuals to help them develop a certain skill or competence. work?
  • Do the plans for a new community include some aspect that might encourage the positive development of shared values?
  • Is there provision for community development work to encourage contact between different elements of the community?

'Social capitalGlossary: the networks and trust between people that help a community work together towards shared objectives' refers to the ability of members of a community to form social relationships and networks between neighbours, community and shared interest groups and the wider population.

High levels of social capitalGlossary: the networks and trust between people that help a community work together towards shared objectives have been linked to a number of positive community outcomes, such as better educational achievement and resident health. There is also evidence linking high social capitalGlossary: the networks and trust between people that help a community work together towards shared objectives, or sense of community, to lower levels of criminal activity. These positive outcomes are more closely related to residents' sense of community (connection to other people) rather than their attachment to a physical place, which suggests that even entirely new places will benefit from the development of a sense of local community.

It is difficult to measure the degree to which residents have formed relationships with each other and therefore consideration of social capitalGlossary: the networks and trust between people that help a community work together towards shared objectives is rarely overtly included in plans for new communities. However, practitionersGlossary: are people engaged in an occupation or profession that is involved in planning and delivering settlements involved in the creation of new settlements are able to encourage the development of these social networks through their use of design, community events and groups and by helping to build shared values within the new community. Begining this process early in the life of a community will ensure that these networks are able to develop more fully into the longer term.

Further Reading

Elements within this ingredent:

1. Designing places to help people mix

Inclusive design can reduce fear of crime and promote the use of open public spaces such as parks, providing space for residents to interact and get to know others in their community.

read more    

2. Events and shared interest groups

Shared interest groups can offer an opportunity for residents to meet their neighbours, potentially from a range of backgrounds and age groups, who share an interest in a specific activity or issue.

read more    

3. Shared values

Shared values can help unite populations of new communities, all of whom are recent arrivals.

read more