Developing Socially Productive Places - RSA

Developing Socially Productive Places


  • Community and place-based action

Developing Socially Productive Places explores the relationship between the physical and social aspects of community-building and place-making. It challenges and supports local authorities, developers, communities and businesses to deepen their understanding of what makes places good for people in the long term, featuring seven case studies at different phases of the development.

Engage with OUR research



A key concern of local authorities and other accountable bodies during periods of growth is to ensure that economic benefits reach residents as well as improve public finances. The property and development industry has generally struggled to quantify the value and nature of interaction between people and the places they live and work in. Building assets for community use alongside development is often an afterthought.

Development is one of the most powerful drivers of local political engagement, and therefore the planning process represents a significant gateway to stronger community relations and dialogue on a range of issues. 

Progressive approaches can support socially and economically valuable outcomes at different stages in a development process – from engaging communities in planning to evaluating impact on well-being.

To fully utilise this potential for dynamic, local innovation, developers will require new competencies that strengthen their understanding of how people, households and community networks respond to and use the opportunities afforded by the built environment. 

This paper challenges and supports the next generation of developers and local authorities to develop new ways of working with local communities and governments, outlining the value of insight into local networks. Leaders should consider:

  • Planning as a front-line service, which doesn’t exist in isolation from other public sector roles which influence how a place functions.

  • Investing in planning to bring value to other public sector objectives and pro-actively strengthen relationships between developers and incoming people, and businesses and existing communities.

  • Developing socially productive places means supporting local people to engage with development as a means of addressing issues such as local employment, transport and health and education provision.

  • Socially productive places build community capacity to benefit from growth, increase resilience to shocks and support people’s ability to adapt together to new circumstances.

Progress will only be made if both public and private sectors, individuals and community groups, collaborate in new ways.

Read Jonathan Schifferes blog - Developing Socially Productive Places.



Picture of Jonathan Schifferes
Associate Director, Public Services and Communities (Family leave)

Be the first to write a comment


Please login to post a comment or reply

Don't have an account? Click here to register.