Social Sustainability – Social Cohesion 

Social Cohesion is the process that build shared values within a community, aiming at eliminating or reducing inequality when it comes to wealth and income, empowering people to develop a feeling of belonging, attachment and responsibility from being part of that community, overcoming together challenges and obstacles. 

One of the main aspects, and desired results is the reduction and poverty by supporting long.term sustainable growth based on equity and distribution of the benefits. Recently the social cohesion trend, applied to sustainability process, started to be applied around local models, where the progress can be tangible within local communities, then in turn applied at wider cultural and territorial scopes, often accompanied by policies, incentives and funding, creating a plethora of positive local good practices. So, when we look at social cohesion we have these main ingredients; long term partnerships within and around the targeted community, people engagement in understanding the issues and challenges at hand, implementing targeted actions, local policy dialogue, and shared results and outcomes, as the simple (apparently) recipe to initiate social cohesion in one’s community. 

Development often occurs driven by a specific need that too often is a short term one and ignores the future impact. The outcome of that type of thinking is the climate crisis, pollution and global warming, as well as a rise in inequalities and social injustice, with a widening rich-poor gap in many parts of the world. Development needs to include a core element and indicators and that is the basic right to dignity that comes from simply being human.

Here comes into play social cohesion, when that sense of feel part of a community is the source and place where dignity is applied, and on this ground strong relationships can be built, fostering respect, safety, support and most of all mutuality. The principle of community is embedded in our mind since ages forgotten, mostly determined by cultural and territorial limitation, nonetheless the increased global connections and interactions have lead also to the creation of a global community, which already exists and most of us are still unconscious about it. And with this knowledge of being part of something planetary should come the inspiration for local actions aiming towards local changes, plenty of them, everywhere and mutually inspiring. Because the challenges we face today are global ones and need a global answer. 

Social cohesion is one of the keys to sustainability because it stresses the interconnection and interdependence and to be aware of that, in order to allow solidarity to blossom and lead to common-good actions, because we all have a responsibility towards the solution. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought to a halt many of the sustainability processes that were being initiated around the world, switching the attention from climate and solutions to contrasting the virus. However, it also helped us understand that the current methods and models of development were very inadequate and not really providing solutions to an increasing problem and threat to life.  The idea that first we generate wealth and then distribute it to the public is greatly outdated and already inefficient. What is emerging now, perhaps as a result of the pandemic, is a new idea, that of a society where creation and distribution of wealth are one and the same, ongoing, circular, and involves all actors in society. This is a massive mind-shift and is already happening as we speak, taking the name of “cohesive economy” a new system that improves the relationship between private, public and third sector by promoting shared initiatives aimed at regeneration. This is on what social cohesion today is rooted, and it is manifested in many different facets, such as groups of people who informally seek to identify solutions to social problems, or the public sector establishing programmes and projects that foster participation, sometimes cross-sectoral initiatives coming together in partnership to manage community projects. Therefore once we work together, the solutions provided are shared, as is the sense of belonging to those solutions, observed from every possible perspective and therefore a self-evident and empirical answer to real needs. 

Published by Lorenzo Nava

Consultant, Trainer and Coach, on participatory learning processes, experiential learning dynamics, non formal education and NLP certified practitioner