Measuring Greater Sydney’s social capital

Greater Sydney Commission

Greater Sydney's Social Capital: Its Nature and Value

Sydney is experiencing rapid growth and transformation. Home to over 4.7 million already, by 2036 Greater Sydney will accommodate 1.74 million additional people living in more than 725,000 additional homes. For this to be sustainable, the region needs to plan for communities that create and share social capital. 

In 2017, Cred was engaged by the Greater Sydney Commission to undertake a study to map and analyse social capital and social connectors to inform the development of Greater Sydney’s District Plans, and improve planning, urban design and development for social capital. 

Social capital is facilitated by social connectors, or the places, spaces and networks that enable meaningful social interaction amongst people such as public spaces, community centres, cafes, schools, workplaces, stations, sports clubs and arts centres, as well as online share networks.

How we did it

Cred applied the conceptual framework of social capital to the planning context and built environment of Greater Sydney. Our approach included:

  • analysis of social capital, what it is and what its role is in creating socially cohesive and sustainable cities, illustrated by best practice case studies from Greater Sydney and beyond
  • auditing and heat mapping of the places, spaces and social connectors that facilitate social capital to show which areas already have high numbers of social connectors (and therefore social capital) where there are gaps
  • analysis of challenges and opportunities in planning for social capital across Greater Sydney
  • providing practical considerations for planning for social capital in new and less dense communities especially in Sydney’s west.


A colourful infographic mapping social connections throughout Darlinghurst with key locations highlighted

Mapping social connections (Source: Cred).

The outcome

Cred’s report, Greater Sydney’s Social Capital: Its Nature and Value, highlighted for the Greater Sydney Commission how planning can ensure our communities develop neighbourliness, a welcoming attitude, co-operation, trust and resilience amongst their citizens in the face of complex challenges such as population growth, increasing cultural diversity and rising intolerance, housing stress, increasing homelessness and climate change.

This study provided an approach to planning for Greater Sydney that prioritises social outcomes and the creation of sustainable and resilient communities. It provided a roadmap to put the sharing of social capital at the core of urban design, planning and development to deliver improved health, wellbeing and economic outcomes by allowing residents greater participation in community life and economic diversity.

Cred Consulting was awarded the 2018 NSW PIA Award for Planning Excellence in Cutting-Edge Research for this project.