Social infrastructure has come to the fore during the Covid-19 crisis, with an upsurge in volunteering and ‘mutual aid’, and many community buildings and open spaces repurposed as part of the emergency response. The experience has led many to consider how this infrastructure might be more effectively sustained as part of the recovery, embedded more fully in our approach to longer-term place-making, and used as a platform for community-led solutions to the twin crises of social care and climate change.
Looking in detail at three examples, this report argues that ‘community hubs’ – places that provide a focus for a range of practical volunteering – can provide a strong base for addressing some of the issues facing people in ‘left behind’ communities. They are both an integral part of social infrastructure and support its wider development, promoting social cohesion, building trust and interaction between community members, and increasing people’s knowledge, skills, and wider networks. Making green space a central component of community hubs can improve both mental and physical health and stimulate a greater appetite for action on climate change and biodiversity loss.