Social Cohesion

In tackling the coming major global challenges – of unprecedented migration and climate change – there was a sense of urgency within this working group of A World of Neighbors about the need to foster greater social cohesion. The group grappled with a number of critical questions and intriguing possibilities, all with an eye to grassroots engagement.

The fourth working group met in Fisksätra, Stockholm in November 2019.

Trust, Good Will and Resilience

In academic and policy-making circles, the term social cohesion started to gain traction in the 1990s. This mirrored trends in moving from mono-cultures to rapidly pluralizing societies. In considering the degree to which a society is able to welcome and live together with ‘people on the move,’ the working group agree on this shared understanding of social cohesion as:

… the capacity of a community to draw on the assets of all sectors of society for its collective well-being, combining realism, openness and creativity in order to create a reservoir of trust, good will and resilience, so as to meet the practical challenges of living together with mutual respect and shared responsibility.

If you are not at the table, you are probably on the menu.

Rabbi Rebecca Lillian
Coming to grips with the value of diversity is essential, while acknowledging how difficult it can be. Nevertheless, with a commitment to unconditional regard for the other, expressed in deep listening and acceptance, new and often unexpected relationships, and meaningful collaboration, is possible. 

Faith-based communities and their affiliated organisations need to be proactive as first-adopters and role models in this crucial work. 

In other words, instead of being bystanders, they can be upstanders.

Heterogeneous communities need to endure the discomfort of different ways of living and new ways of practicing old traditions. Each group within the heterogenic society will also have non-negotiables that need to be expressed and discussed.

Report: Social Cohesion

On that basis, working group discussions revolved around creating the conditions for cultivating trust, a respect for identity, and an embrace of the transformative power of mutuality.  Strategies the emerged focused on the role of faith-based organisations in serving as the bridge between multiple levels in the society, with a special emphasis on the need to create new alliances.