Investigating the Physical Determinants of Social Capital and Their Implications for Sustainable Urban Development

By Cletus Moobela, Andrew D. F. Price, Vivek N. Mathur and Primali Paranagamage.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The concept of social capital is gaining increasing recognition as a concomitant for social and economic development. Robert Putnam’s (2000) exposition of the crucial correspondence between the decline of social capital on one hand and the economic lives of American people on the other received wide acclaim at home and abroad. Contemporary literature on development studies is equally replete with references to the World Bank’s subscription to the value of social capital as an important factor in fostering sustainable development. The relationship between social capital and environmental action has equally been acknowledged. There is also an increasing realisation that the design and form of cities, neighbourhoods and individual buildings have significant implications on social capital as they can affect the way people interact and bond with each other and the sense of community among individuals (Dannenberg et al, 2003; Lindström et al, 2003). The fundamental premise is that some urban designs encourage social ties and informal contact among residents while others violate the evolutionary pattern of civicness within the urban setting. With all these acclaimed contributions of the design of the urban environment, it is imperative that its role in encouraging social and fostering sustainable development is given greater articulation and understanding. Currently, much of the work focuses on what individuals and groups can do, rather than what the physical environment should be, in order to encourage social ties and civicness. Thus, the aim of this paper is to identify and examine the key physical determinants of social capital within an urban development context. The methods used include critical analysis of scholarly work supplemented by results of a survey carried out by the authors in the United Kingdom. The paper argues that social capital is a subject of self-organisation, whose evolution to higher levels can be catalysed by the prevalence of a critical balance in the design of the physical urban environment.

Keywords: Social Capital, Determinants, Complexity, Sustainability

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp.255-270. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.333MB).

Dr. Cletus Moobela

Senior Lecturer, School of Environmental Design and Management, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK

Dr. Cletus Moobela is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. He as previously worked as a Research Associate at the University of Reading, focussing on asset management strategies for social housing and as a Research Fellow at Loughborough University exploring social sustainability assessment. His research interests revolve around the three themes of social capital, complexity theory, and social sustainability as they relate to the built environment. Prior to commencement of his PhD, he had been working as a Lecturer in Property Valuation and Investment Appraisal at Copperbelt University

Prof. Andrew D. F. Price

Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK

Professor Andrew Price, Director of Post Graduate Studies in the Department of Civil and Building and HaCIRIC Academic Director at LU, has over 25 years design, construction and industry-focused research experience. He has published four books and over 200 refereed papers, successfully supervised 32 PhD students and attracted substantial research funds from several sources. His early research focussed on construction productivity and the motivation and development of human resources. This evolved to include several project management related topics, such as integrated design and construction, partnering and less adversarial long term relationships. In recent years, the focus has moved towards measuring and improving the socio-economic aspects of construction performance, this has included: construction value, sustainability; performance improvement; Total Quality Management; and benchmarking. Current funded research includes: innovative design and construction solutions for healthcare infrastructures; Built Healing Environments and Sustainable Urban Environments; Value for Money and Stakeholder Engagement; and Waste Awareness and Resource Efficiency; Construction Futures and Strategic Management; and Resilience of Critical Infrastructures.

Vivek N. Mathur

PhD Student, Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

Vivek is currently doing a PhD at the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds in the U.K. His research is examining how environmental technologies can enhance the lives of the poor in selected water-scarce villages in North India. Through ethnographic research, drawing on extensive observations and interviews, it attempts to understand how technological interventions interact with the wider dynamic social processes. In particular, it seeks to examine how they shape, and are shaped by local culture, gender relations, caste and other forms of power in the selected villages. Prior to starting his PhD, Vivek worked as a Research Associate at Loughborough University in the U.K. where he conducted research on stakeholder engagement and other related social issues in sustainability assessment of urban development projects. Vivek has an MSc in Sustainability, Planning and Environmental Policy from Cardiff University in the U.K. and a Bachelor of Planning degree from the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi, India. He has a strong interest in sociological investigations of sustainability issues, particularly those related to values, culture, practices, participation, power, equity, human development and the design of decision making processes for sustainability.

Dr. Primali Paranagamage

Research Associate, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK

Dr. Primali Paranagamage is a Research Associate at Loughborough University working on an EPSRC research programme that is building an integrated sustainability assessment toolkit for whole life urban sustainability assessments. She has also previously worked at the University of Westminster as a Research Fellow studying the interface of sustainability and mixed income communities. Primali completed her PhD in 2005 at the Bartlett School of Architecture and Planning, University College London, United Kingdom. Her study focussed on an interdisciplinary understanding of architecture and sociology. Prior to commencement of her doctoral studies, Dr Paranagamage had been working a lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture, Planning and Building Economics, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka


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