Social Capital: How Can Cities Cultivate It?

Social Capital: How Can Cities Cultivate It?

IPPO Cities events bring together policymakers, experts, innovators, and practitioners to share knowledge and best practice about the key issues facing city officials and leaders.  Our final event of 2022 tackles the initiatives and interventions that cities can take to encourage and enhance social capital.  Our expert panel will provide their insights on mechanisms to promote volunteering, mainstreaming social capital at a strategic level, the benefits of social action, social innovation, and more.

What is Social Capital?

Although sometimes hard to define, social capital can be understood at a basic level as the ties that bind us together as a society.  According to Bhandari and Yasunobu (2009), its major elements include “social networks, civic engagement, norms of reciprocity, and generalised trust”, and can be more broadly defined as “a collective asset in the form of shared norms, values, beliefs, trust, networks, social relations, and institutions that facilitate cooperation and collective action for mutual benefits”.

With the social fabric challenged by the fallout from the pandemic, rising inequality, and an ongoing cost of living crisis, a healthy level of social capital continues to be vital for the functioning of our cities and places.  With this in mind, this event brings together speakers to consider questions such as:

  • What tools can cities use to boost social capital?
  • How can social capital be mainstreamed at a strategic level?
  • In which ways can civic strength be built through citizen participation?


One key element and indicator of social capital is volunteering. With the pandemic giving rise to an unprecedented rise in interest in it, the session will hear the recommendations of IPPO’s recent work on this topic. The report sets out the mechanisms which allowed communities and individuals to mobilise during Covid, and makes recommendations to build on and prepare for the next wave of voluntary action.

The social value of volunteering is also discussed in the London’s Lifelines campaign. Developed by the London Volunteer Strategy Group, this highlights the different types of volunteering activities in London and the important part volunteers play in building stronger communities.

Insights from London

From the Greater London Authority, Alice Wilcock, Assistant Director for Civil Society and Sport, and Carla Garnelas, Senior Manager for Civil Society and Volunteering, will share their insights at the session.  These include learnings informed by the London Datastore’s Survey of Londoners, commissioned by the Mayor to help understand the lives of people living in London. Recent surveys have supported work around tackling poverty, supporting new parents, promoting volunteering, and making the city a fairer place to live, as well as assessing the impact of Covid and associated restrictions on key social outcomes for Londoners.

Co-designed and co-created with Londoners, the city also has a Civic Strength IndexDeveloped by The Young Foundation and funded by the Greater London Authority, the Index helps the city’s boroughs and organisations support discussions about the strengths of their communities and how to build on them.

London is also seeking innovative approaches to tackling some of its biggest challenges through its Propel Fund. This is a partnership with pan-London funders to enable organisations to explore, develop, and lead collaborative approaches to tackle some of London’s biggest challenges.

Social Capital and Planning for Prosperity

The roundtable will also hear from Adrian Nolan, Lead Officer for Industrial Strategy in the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. Discover how social capital is ingrained at a strategic level throughout the Liverpool City Region’s Plan for Prosperity, its long-term economic strategy.

The roundtable will also learn how social capital is cultivated through the innovative work of Kindred CIC, a finance and support vehicle for Socially Trading Organisations funded through the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Power to Change investments.

Citizen Engagement and Social Innovation

Our panel also features social innovator Amalia Zepou, the co-founder of NPO KOLLEKTIVA and former Vice-Mayor of Athens for Civil Society and Innovation. Amalia will share examples of social innovation projects to boost social capital including:

  • The Synathina Platform for citizens’ groups focused on improving the quality of life in Athens
  • A Kypseli public market project which saw the re-use of a market building through collective citizen participation
  • Neighbourhood activities for the integration of refugees
  • Using art as a catalyst to engage rural communities on water management issues on the Greek island of Sifnos

Join the Conversation

The event includes an opportunity to put questions to our panel, as well as to share your insights with attendees.

Join us via Zoom at 3 pm this Thursday 8th December 2022 at 3pm GMT for 60 minutes to hear more.  Sign up for free via Eventbrite here.