Across the globe, societies are being divided by oppositional thinking about such things as climate, migration, poverty reduction.

It seems that we have forgotten what holds us together as communities, countries, and even, regions. Recently, when reading research about social cohesion, I was inspired by the fact that that particular research affirmed that resilient societies are built on social cohesion: “a sense of belonging”.  Social cohesion arises when bonds link members of a social group to one another and to the group as a whole.

Social cohesion is the ongoing process of developing well-being, sense of belonging, and voluntary social participation of the members of society, while developing communities that tolerate and promote a multiplicity of values and cultures, and grant, at the same time, equal rights and opportunities in society.

Social cohesion involves building shared values, reducing disparities in wealth and income, and generally enabling people to have a sense that they are engaged in a common enterprise, facing shared challenges, and that they are members of the same community. Its four facets are social relations, task relations, perceived unity, and emotions. 

Cohesion happens at the intersection of the three levels:  the community, the institutions, and the individual.  This makes sense as it is the collective of resilient individuals that make an organization resilient; and it is the collective of resilient organizations that creates a resilient community.   At the community level, the belief that citizens have regarding the moral compass of their nation provides a common ground for trust.  The ongoing process of developing a community of shared values, shared challenges and equal opportunity based on a sense of trust, hope and reciprocity among all citizens builds social cohesion and a resilient community.

For individuals to act, they need favorable communities (climate with compatible sets of norms and values) and institutions (formal structures, norms and values) that do not forbid or limit the individual’s actions and choices. This cohesion, or collective resilience, drives economic growth.

A measure of community resilience is driver of the City Resilience Framework. One of its drivers is to “Promote Cohesive and Engaged Communities”.  This strategy creates a sense of collective identity and mutual support. It includes building a sense of local identity, social networks, and safe space; promoting features of an inclusive local cultural heritage. It encourages cultural diversity while promoting tolerance and a willingness to accept other cultures. It builds on what we have in common, what binds us together.  Social Cohesion.

Lack of resilience threatens the ability of cities, or countries for that matter, to function economically, socially and politically. Social cohesion means creating a society where people have the opportunity to live together with all their differences; creating a society that shows the interdependence among individuals and institutions of that society.

The results of social cohesion: (1) reciprocal loyalty and solidarity, (2) strength of social relations and shared values, (3) sense of belonging, (4) trust among individuals of society (the community), and (5) reduction of inequalities and exclusion. 

To what extent do we see these characteristics in our community?  What is the cost of not working to create social cohesion?

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