Using connections to plan the kind of communities residents want to live in

The RSA has today published new research which shows that examining people’s connections provides a powerful way to understand, plan for and, foster the kind of communities that residents want to live in.

Our guest writer is Thomas Neumark, associate director, Connected Communities

The RSA has today published new research which shows that examining people’s connections provides a powerful way to understand, plan for and, foster the kind of communities that residents want to live in.

Using social network analysis we have found that two-thirds of residents of New Cross Gate, south east London, do not know anyone who works at their local council; a third don’t know any employers; and a quarter don’t know anyone who could introduce them to someone with the responsibility to change things locally. If getting ahead is “not what you know but who you know”, then some of us are likely to be missing out – a fact not missed by Guardian Society.

As well as being a useful way of understanding an area, this approach can also inform practical approaches to combating isolation and to supporting the development of more resilient and empowered communities. This builds on recent research into the power of social networks and the importance of social connections, research which has hit the headlines with stories on how social networks can explain everything from divorce rates to life expectancy to obesity.

As Paul Omerod recently argued, interventions which are informed by this approach will be radically different to the traditional government led approaches to regeneration. For example, rather than focusing on improving the skills of benefit claimants, government might focus on building connections between those who are in work and those who are out of work.

Social networks offer a powerful tool that could enable communities to solve problems and shape circumstances more effectively. This approach should not form the rationale for significantly withdrawing support and funding from areas where entrenched disadvantage is acute – it should form the basis for a new and more effective approach to community regeneration.

3 Responses to “Using connections to plan the kind of communities residents want to live in”

  1. neilrfoster

    @dickstar, @michaelgates, @bencapper Thought you'd find this interesting on connections and social change //tinyurl.com/29bmtsp

  2. tomneumark

    My report! RT @leftfootfwd: Using connections to plan the kind of communities residents want to live in: //bit.ly/cr4BkZ

  3. UX Feeder

    Delicious: Using connections to plan the kind of communities residents want to live in | Left Foot Forwa… //bit.ly/apt7t3 [Research]

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