The Activating Social Connection project
The project builds on a 7-year research program on social connection with the Australian Red Cross, multiple Melbourne and regional Victorian Councils, community organisations and Allianz Ltd.
This endeavour enabled us to build an evidence-based framework that captures the essential components of social connection. Our approach was interdisciplinary, weaving together insights from psychology, sociology, urban planning, community development and media and communications. This interdisciplinary fusion is crucial, as social connection is a multifaceted concept, explored through diverse lenses, terminologies, and theorethical frameworks across various fields. By integrating these distinct perspectives, we are crafting a cohesive tapestry that enriches our understanding of social connectedness, effectively assembling the puzzle pieces of knowledge from different disciplines to form a holistic view.
The current project shifts the focus towards often overlooked communities, including those living in outer-metropolitan growing suburbs. It also casts a spotlight on groups at risk of experiencing the effects of social isolation, including migrants, people at risk from climate-related events, and ageing community members.
The project examines social connections through multiple lenses, including community health, community development, urban planning, and digital social connections.
Two key aspects of the project are to produce strengths-based measures for social connection and valuable resources to assist more social connection, e.g., for planners, policymakers, managers, and those working in communities.
The project runs from 2022 to 2025.
Specifically, the project will:
- Map social connection locations, activities, and online communities spatially.
- Engage with residents to gain insights into diverse experiences of connection and disconnection.
- Co-design practical guidance, resources, and measures.
- Implement and evaluate newly developed resources and methods.
- Review and suggest improvements to local and state policies and planning processes to activate social connection more effectively.