Australian Research Council Linkage Project 2022–25
This project seeks to address the levels of high social isolation evident in Australia by developing an evidence-based, strengths-based approach and toolkit enabling both individuals and communities to activate social connection. It offers social benefits by improving individuals’ mental health and inclusion, and communities’ cohesion, social capital and resilience, with a focus on communities on the urban fringes of metropolitan Melbourne. It has a focus on specific vulnerable groups (new migrants, isolated youth, isolated older people and people with enduring psychosocial disability) in some of the fastest growing suburbs in Australia. Reducing social isolation requires the interplay of service delivery, health interventions and relationships to the built environment, even as so many interactions move online. The social benefits of addressing this is significant, but also confers economic benefits to workplace engagement and health care.
The research includes a coalition of community and local government partners and focusses on co-designing a toolkit and guidelines for use by community partners and policymakers to activate social connection in practical ways in their communities. There is sustained evidence that social connection is a social determinant of health. However, the project is also applied to better enable people to access networks for social and economic improvement, and to enable preparedness, resilience, humanitarian action, civic participation and social cohesion.
A key aim of the project is to bring concepts of social isolation, largely derived from health community sector research and organisations, into an urban planning vernacular and its practices in making Australian suburbs.