Social Infrastructure

Definition: Social infrastructure influences the development of community by means of the availability of quality healthcare, the safety of investment, the quality of the school system, the parks, recreational, and cultural opportunities, the availability, affordability, and quality of housing, and having a quality college/university nearby. (Phillips and Pittman, p. 140-142) Apply: The social infrastructure of a community can provide crucial information about the strengths and weaknesses of a community, the resources which community members are likely to place importance on, as well as the settings in which community members are most likely to congregate. For example, if a community has a variety of interesting recreational and cultural opportunities which members enjoy participating in, but the quality of the school system in the neighborhood is sub-par and offers few extra-curricular opportunities, it is probable that community members (particularly youth) may value the cultural opportunities and events available to them outside of school and may invest less energy and time into school as a result. Adapt: The social infrastructure of an academic community, specifically a higher education community such as the University of Michigan, can also play an important role in assessing the factors that are most pertinent to the academic community, particularly the students who inhabit that community. The quality of the university, the quality of housing, the quality of healthcare, the affordability of living in the area, and the parks, recreational, and cultural opportunities available to members of an academic community affects the degree to which students connect and invest in their academic community and in turn the degree to which a strong sense of community within the academic environment can develop.

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  1. Apply: For community developers it is as important to look at social infrastructure as it is to look at physical infrastructure or economic development infrastructure. If a community developer was interested in building a mass transit system like a subway but did not make note of the social infrastructures most used by the community like hospitals, schools, parks/cultural centers, they may not build a transit system that is reflective of the city's needs.

    Adapt: As odd as this may sound, architecture may benefit from understanding social infrastructure. Are spaces being designed with their social functions and populations in mind? For example, if an architect designing a community center understood that it will mostly be used by seniors in the community than they may be more likely to install ramps, traction strips on stairs etc. and design it to be attractive to that population.