Community-based social capital and economic resilience of SMEs in Iran: the role of socio-economic and built-environment characteristics of urban neighbourhoods

Drs Taimaz Larimian and Arash Sadeghi

Funding period: 1 May 2022 – 30 April 2023
Type of funding: Other Grants

Partner organisations: Loughborough University and Aston University
Lead organisers: Drs Taimaz Larimian and Arash Sadeghi
Contact: Dr Taimaz Larimian

This research project was funded by a USF Pandemics and Cities grant.

Abstract: This interdisciplinary study investigates the impact of community-based social capital (CSC) on the economic resilience of Iranian Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) during the pandemic and how this relationship changes with various socio-economic (e.g., age/income distribution, ethnic diversity) and built-environment characteristics (e.g., land-use mix, density, connectivity, and mobility) of the neighbourhoods in which SMEs reside. This study contributes to providing a deeper understanding of the social and economic dimensions of pandemics on urban lives and places by demonstrating how the power of community can be harnessed to create resilient local economies and fair societies.

Although high-income countries are transitioning towards normality, many low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) are still struggling with new waves of Covid-19. So far Iran has had five waves, with more expected owing to delayed vaccine rollout and a lack of vaccine. Iran is among the top 10 most severely affected countries, both in terms of the death rate and economic downturn. A recent McKinsey report predicts that many LMICs, such as Iran, will not reach high vaccine coverage until late 2022 or early 2023.

Unlike developed countries, the government in Iran was unable to provide much-needed financial support for businesses during the pandemic. Even prior to the pandemic, due to sanctions, Iran was in its weakest economic state of the last three decades. The pandemic further intensified economic pressures and had a significant negative impact on businesses, exacerbating spatial and economic inequality. SMEs, defined as enterprises with fewer than 50 employees, were among the most severely affected economic sectors due to a lack of resources to resist such external shocks.

Iran reflects wider patterns within the SMEs sector in LMICs. During the pandemic and in the absence of government financial supports, CSC is particularly important for SMEs’ resilience in LMICs. As such, the CSC that SMEs had established with their community remains among the few channels that could potentially help them throughout the pandemic and act as a glue that holds the community together.