Mapping Social Infrastructure

Mapping Social Infrastructure is a collaborative initiative led by London Metropolitan University in partnership with the University of Nottingham. Bringing together scholars in the fields of architecture, urbanism, sociology and public policy, this partnership seeks to generate place-based tools and methods for mapping civil society networks, in ways that can inform processes of local mobilisation, participatory planning, and local policy making.

The project is collaborative in nature, and has developed in dialogue with civil society, public sector and research organisations that are based either in Nottingham or London, and work closely with diverse communities of residents including migrants and diasporic groups. So far, the project has collaborated with Transforming Notts TogetherLatin ElephantThe Brixton ProjectSocial Life and the GLA Culture and Community Spaces at Risk programme.

The first stage of the initiative (Mapping Community Networks 2022) was led by the University of Nottingham. It consisted of a pilot study aimed at creating and testing interdisciplinary network mapping methodologies based on participatory action research, social network analysis and spatial analysis. The pilot study included co-productive research in Nottingham and in south London, where the research team gathered local knowledge, co-developed methodologies and identified priorities for further work.

The second stage of the initiative (The Social Infrastructure of Inclusion, 2023) stemmed from this experience and has been funded by London Metropolitan University. The aim is to deepen, extend and amplify the outcomes of the pilot project, through organising seminars, writing collaboratively and developing a grant application.

Research activities at this stage continue investigating place-based tools and methods for mapping civil society networks, particularly when these are put under stress by external forces, such as the recent Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing processes of urban regeneration. The aim is to share and discuss research methodologies for making visible the social connections that sustain community-led development in diverse urban areas, as well as the conditions, structures, relations and dynamics that cause their unmaking.    

By fostering interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaboration on this subject, we hope to explore how co-productive research spanning architecture, urbanism, sociology, and public policy can contribute to sustaining, repairing and imagining community-led social infrastructure in the face of multiple and intersecting crises.