Social connections intervention - the RSA - RSA

Social connections

Social connections

What if everyone had access to the connections they needed to thrive?

Social connections - the RSA

We envision a world where the circumstances of your birth don’t predict what you can achieve.

A world where:

  • entrepreneurs, no matter their level of privilege, have the same ability to connect to resources, mentors and capital
  • our built environments foster connection and community
  • isolation and loneliness are not trademarks of old age
  • young people can navigate the world with a sense of belonging and community support
  • the wariness and detachment we feel towards each other is transformed into a spirit of generosity and connection
  • no one is left out or left behind.

At the RSA, we've supported social connections to enable positive societal transformation across traditional divides for over 270 years. We have been a convenor, network builder, and shared commons for individuals looking to collaborate across organisations, disciplines, sectors, and increasingly national borders to solve challenges at scale.

The challenge we’re addressing

The evidence is clear: who you know is just as important, if not more so, than what you know. Social capital, the fabric of our relationships, trust, and community bonds, is now recognised as playing a role in several social outcomes. For instance, the world’s longest-running study on adult life has found that one of the strongest predictors of a happy and long life is having warm and trusting relationships.

Why social connectivity matters


Andy Haldane

Social capital research by Raj Chetty and peers points to another powerful implication for why ‘who you know’ matters. A research team at Harvard University, led by Raj Chetty, has found that cross-class relationships are the strongest predictor of economic mobility. People from lower socio-economic groups can, by connecting with people from higher socio-economic groups, boost their lifetime incomes by 20% according to Chetty’s estimates. A potential key to enhancing social mobility, at least across the US, is greater social capital.

Unfortunately, across the US and UK, we have witnessed a troubling decline in the strength of social ties and social mobility since the mid-century, leading to increased isolation, alienation, and an array of other social determinants of health and wealth. This decline in social capital has significant implications for individual and community wellbeing, as well as for our civic and political institutions, and society’s resilience to shocks and crises.

How our social connections impact our economic mobility

Public talks / Video / Online

Online Webinar via Zoom

Harvard economist Professor Raj Chetty and Lucy Makinson, Behavioural Insights Team discuss how connectivity, social cohesion and civic engagement can play a role in shaping income equality and economic opportunity.

We believe one of the reasons for this decline is that individual and community ‘social capital’ has been largely neglected in policymaking for several decades in favour of an overemphasis on economic capital and growth as the only metric of societal success. There is an increasing focus on the depletion of our environmental capital, but less concern on the depletion of social capital.

It is time to see a step-change in encouraging approaches and practices that value and commit to stewarding social capital.

Hidden capital


Tom Stratton,Stephen Jones

Social capital is fuel for us as individuals, personally and emotionally. But it is rocket fuel for us economically and financially too. It is the secret source of economic as well as personal growth and wellbeing. At a time when the importance of social capital has never been greater but its stock appears somewhat depleted, this begs two questions. First, how can we better recognise the societal contribution of social capital? And second, how do we invest in the endowment of social capital wisely to grow it in future?

Chief Executive, The RSA Andy Haldane

What we’re doing about it

For this intervention we will function as a global catalyst, convening and supporting practitioners, places and policymakers in pursuit of growing social connections to support mobility and wellbeing through four different areas of work.

Global prize incentives

Creating the conditions and incentives for innovative solutions that foster social connections through our Design for Life Awards.

Connected places

Supporting place-led approaches to social capital creation and cohesion through our convening power, data and evidence and our network of 31,000 Fellows.

Global action learning network

Building capacity among a global network of social capital practitioners through peer learning, inspiration and solidarity. We will be launching an community of practice focused on relational wealth and social connection interventions in January 2025.

Unlocking philanthropic investment

Shifting funder practices around social connections will accelerate a future where no one is left behind. Our growing community of funders is working to support more connected futures through social connections.

Benjamin Franklin Medal

One of the RSA’s highest honours, the Benjamin Franklin Medal is awarded to individuals whose work reflects the values of inquiry, civic empowerment, and a desire to improve society.

Revealing social capital

Working with Meta's 'Data for Good programme' we leverage insights from Facebook data to understand how all social connections affect the opportunities they have in our lives. We call this ‘social capital’.

Become an RSA Fellow

The RSA Fellowship is a unique global network of changemakers enabling people, places and the planet to flourish. We invite you to be part of this change.

Read our Social connections content