The Built Environment Sector

The SOCIAL Framework in the Built Environment Sector

The built environment is made up of the physical spaces we inhabit – from the places we live to the places we learn, play, and work. From the infrastructure that powers our communities with water and electricity to the transportation systems we use to get from place to place. Whether as architects, city planners, local leaders, or engaged citizens, each one of us plays a role in shaping our shared environment and facilitating spaces that connect and foster belonging. 

Our report – The SOCIAL Framework in The Built Environment – explores how local leaders, policymakers, and organizational change-makers can foster connectedness through the design, planning, and facilitation of the built environment. 

We have developed these reports to be living documents, constantly adapting to new research and policy updates. As such, we welcome your feedback on the report!

Key Objectives

Describe and understand the power of the built environment as an interconnected system of physical spaces and attributes which create networks of our cities, communities, and nations – from the street we live on, to the placement of a park, or gathering space. 

Identify how the design, planning, policy, and use of the built environment can negatively or positively influence our ability to be socially connected.

Share promising strategies for increasing social connectedness through the design, planning, policy, and use of built environments across levels of influence for various stakeholders.

Watch our Advancing Social Connection through the Built Environment Webinar.

Executive Summary

This report uses the SOCIAL Framework to highlight opportunities for tackling social isolation, loneliness, and promoting social connection (SILC) across various levels of influence within the built environment, including transportation, housing, and environmental sectors. Additionally, it addresses overarching themes and collaboration opportunities. Consideration of these four components ensures a more systematic and effective approach to population health and demonstrates the interconnected nature of the built environment. 

This report emphasizes the necessity of cross-sector collaboration in the planning, design, and policy-making processes to foster social connectedness and enhance community well-being through the built environment. It is a call to action for policymakers, urban planners, and community leaders to leverage innovative strategies for creating more inclusive, connected, and healthy environments. 


  • Ashley Krombach, Foundation for Social Connection
  • Erin Peavey, HKS Inc.
  • Risa Wilkerson, Healthy Places by Design
  • Abigail Barth, MPH, Foundation for Social Connection


  • Dr. Carrie Henning-Smith, PhD, MPH, University of Minnesota School of Public Health
  • Amanda O’Rourke, 8 80 Cities
  • Ayanna Williams, National Recreation and Park Association
  • Dr. Thomas Cudjoe, MD, MPH, MA, F4SC Scientific Advisory Council, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Reviewers & Contributors

  • Jillian Racoosin Kornmeier, MPH, Foundation for Social Connection
  • Dr. Marlee Bower, University of Sydney 
  • Dr. Autumn Saxton-Ross, PhD, National Recreation and Park Association
  • Abigail Gadbois, MPH, Healthsperien
  • Nate Storring, MA, Project for Public Spaces
  • Dr. Megan Henly, PhD, University of New Hampshire
  • Kathy Greenlee, ADvancing States 
  • Dr. Seth Kaplan, PhD, MBA, The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies 
  • Lara Pinchbeck, MA, Lara Pinchbeck: Research into Design
  • Erin Maruzzella, MBA, Innovations in Aging Collaborative
  • Megan Mazzocco, Wellbeing X Design
  • Jillian Finkle, MA, Grow Smart Rhode Island
  • Rachel Cohen, MSW, MUP, Aging Dynamics & LinkAGES Connect
  • Kelsey Zlevor, MCRP, MUSE Community + Design
  • Michelle Hoar, Hey Neighbor Collective
  • Jennifer Hughes, MCP, National Endowment for the Arts

Framework in Action

A brief overview of how the Foundation is putting the Framework into action:

Embed Multi-Sector Approach

We connect partners from different sectors and levels of influence to support united, multi-sector work.

Support Implementation

Through our innovation work, we share evidence-based strategies and learnings with partners who can implement and test approaches shared in the SOCIAL Framework Reports.

Inform Policy

Our research informs policy development at our sister organization, The Coalition to End Social Isolation and Loneliness.

Are you putting the framework into action? We’d love to learn how!

If you are designing, implementing, researching, or testing a solution to promote social connection within the built environment sector, we’d love to learn more! We invite you to share what you are doing to advance social connection by contacting us below.

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