“Social life” a research centre and innovation about communities

We believe that creating places that support local people, which are socially sustainable, matters as much as creating places that are economically and environmentally sustainable.

Our work is about understanding how peoples’ day-to-day experience of local places is shaped by the built environment – housing, public spaces, parks and local high streets – and how change, through regeneration, new development or small improvements to public spaces, affects the social fabric, opportunities and wellbeing of local areas.

We bring these insights to the process of planning, designing and managing places by working with communities, built environment professionals, public agencies and governments, in the UK and internationally.

Social Life is a social enterprise, created by the Young Foundation in 2012, to become a specialist centre of research and innovation about the social life of communities. Social Life builds on the ground-breaking work of two leading social thinkers: Michael Young, sociologist and social entrepreneur who established the Institute of Community Studiesin 1954 to bring social research to post-war urban planning; andProfessor Sir Peter Hall, one of the world’s most respected and widely-published thinkers about urban planning and former Senior Research Fellow at the Young Foundation.


Center for Development Research (ZEF) at University of Bonn

The Center for Development Research (ZEF) is an institute of the University of Bonn, Germany. It started its research activities in 1997. ZEF’s researchers aim to find science-based solutions to development-related issues. ZEF’s research departments on Economic and Technological Change, Political and Cultural Change, and Ecology and Natural Resources Management conduct inter- and trans-disciplinary research in, for and with emerging economies and on global issues with its collaborating research partners around the world. ZEF educates doctoral students from all over the world in its Doctoral Studies Program. ZEF is guided by an International Advisory Board. See also our organisational diagram.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)

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The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) is the premier academic organization and comprehensive research center of the People’s Republic of China in the fields of philosophy and social sciences.

CASS was established in May 1977, replacing the Department of Philosophy and Social Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Professor Hu Qiaomu was the first president accredited to CASS, and he was followed by Professor Ma Hong, Professor Hu Sheng, Professor Li Tieying and Professor Chen Kuiyuan. Professor Wang Weiguang is the current president.

CASS is now made up of 31 research institutes and 45 research centers, which carry out research activities covering nearly 300 sub-disciplines. At present, CASS has more than 4,200 staff members in total, of which more than 3,200 are professional researchers.

Conducting broad international academic exchange remains one of CASS’s guidelines, and this has gained pace in recent years. The quantity of scholars participating in academic exchanges has gone from dozens of people divided into 10 batches in 1979, to over 4,100 people divided into 1398 batches in 1995. In the meanwhile, CASS has established a constructive relationship with over 200 research organizations, academic communities, institutions of higher learning, foundations and related government departments, covering more than 80 countries and regions.

Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology at UFZ


The Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ (Germany) is likely one of the most appealing and advanced research centres I’ve seen in relation to urban and environmental studies. See bellow the short description provided in their website:

The Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ builds on a rich tradition of scholarship in human ecological research in sociology and related disciplines. Here, you may explore our web of people and projects, and how they are advancing sociological inquiry in inter- and transdisciplinary contexts.

What I most like is the track record of research projects. I have affinity for many of the topics covered by them such as land use conflicts, urban development or social cohesion. One of the head of the department Dr. Sigrun Kabisch has conducted mining regions related research projects in the past as well as I do in my doctoral dissertation. Actually, I have got coincidence with she and other members in several international conferences.

I promise to track them and occasionally mention some of its projects in the category #TopResearchProjects

Leibniz Institute for Regional Development and Structral Development (IRS) (Germany)

Another urban and regional studies related research centre. I like the concept that entitles their own description: “Social Science-based Spatial Research”. Basically because It’s notable the absence of social sciences in many urban studies departments.

Social Science-based Spatial Research

In accordance with its statutes the IRS explores the transformation and governance of cities and regions from a social science perspective. To this end, research is organised in interdisciplinary teams with long-term research concerns.

The following cross-cutting issues guide research:

  • path development, institutional change and spatial governance

  • communication dynamics and spatial structures of interaction

  • a spatial perspective on innovation processes

  • history as a resource of urban and regional development.

I also found, browsing the website, a very interesting concept “Peripheralization” that refers to “the emergence of social and spatial disparities apt to cut off certain regions or partial spaces from positive development stimuli”.

And related to this, I came across this tweet from IRS on “”Peripheral Small Town”. Pretty much related to my PhD dissertation.

It seems to me that I need to polish my German. Many interesting place to do research there!

Department of Development Sociology at Cornell University

The Department of Development Sociology has a unique PROGRAMprofile that is unmatched by any other departments of sociology in the nation. The integrated package of scholarship on development, environment, population and community is its distinguishing characteristic and comparative advantage. Faculty and students in the department conduct theoretical and applied research, teaching, and outreach on the causes, dynamics, and consequences of social, cultural, political and economic change. Development Sociology majors study how societies develop and identify the social pathways that can help build a successful career. The department is well known for international, domestic, rural, environmental, agricultural, and population studies.


Our vision is to sustain our national and international leadership among Sociology departments, particularly our expertise in the sociology of development.


We regard our mission as first, playing a central role in informing contemporary debates about the scope, meaning and promise of development in a globalizing world; and second, as building such knowledge through engaged research with a wide range of constituencies.

We believe that understanding of and solutions to development problems can be found through original research, teaching, and outreach that support scholars, practitioners and organizations working to address some of the most pressing social, economic and environmental questions of our times