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How can we bring people together? Are we doing enough to protect the public spaces and institutions that offer a bulwark against chaos, decline, alienation and division?
Too often we take for granted and neglect our libraries, parks, markets, schools, playgrounds, gardens and communal spaces, but decades of research now show that these places can have an extraordinary effect on our personal and collective wellbeing. Why? Because wherever people cross paths and linger, wherever we gather informally, strike up a conversation and get to know one another, relationships blossom and communities emerge – and where communities are strong, people are safer and healthier, crime drops and commerce thrives, and peace, tolerance and stability take root.
Eric Klinenberg is Director of the Institute of Public Knowledge at New York University. His pioneering research into the power of social infrastructure led to his appointment in 2013 as Research Director for President Obama's $1 billion programme to rebuild the region affected by Superstorm Sandy.
At the RSA, through uplifting human stories and an illuminating tour through the science of social connection, he shows that properly designing and maintaining our ‘social infrastructure’ might be our single best strategy for a more equal and united society.