What Is Community Cohesion?

Jan Fletcher

Community cohesion is a sociological term coined in the aftermath of riots that occurred in England in 2001. The term describes the process of a community making a transition from acknowledging diversity to seeing itself as a community with shared values. A cohesive community is thought to possess a sense of solidarity. Members of the community see themselves as collectively belonging to one another.

A group of people who work toward harmony in allocation of resources among members can be called cohesive.
A group of people who work toward harmony in allocation of resources among members can be called cohesive.

This cohesiveness is defined by the presence of certain cultural values and the absence of others. A community that is collaborative and works toward harmony in allocation of resources among community members can be called cohesive. The goal is an absence of uncivil behavior. A feeling of attachment to community is encouraged. Immigrants are expected to eventually feel a sense of belonging in the new homeland.

Racism can impair social cohesion in a community.
Racism can impair social cohesion in a community.

Significant rioting occurred in the English towns of Bradford, Oldham, and Burnley in 2001. Ted Cantle, Chief Executive of Nottingham City Council until March of that year, is considered by some to be the originator of the community cohesion concept. He stated publicly that the voluntary segregation of minority groups was the likely cause of the rioting.

Community cohesion is often built from established relationships.
Community cohesion is often built from established relationships.

In an independent team report that followed the rioting, it was observed that enforced segregation did not truly exist in England. Even so, citizens of diverse backgrounds remained isolated from members of other diverse groups. This led to a feeling of disconnectedness. Bridges spanning intercultural differences did not exist, because the lives of the people rarely touched outside insular ethnic groups. According to local government officials, interpersonal tensions increased, eventually expressed through violent acts.

Following the riots, government officials began to develop a definition for community cohesion and the factors that would encourage its formation. A decision was made by the nation's leaders to place a greater emphasis on community cohesiveness. This was to be accomplished by encouraging citizens to form a more meaningful sense of belonging to a greater community that encompassed diverse ethnic and cultural differences. A task force was eventually established. The success of the concept was to be evidenced through the increased cooperation of individuals from various multicultural groups, as they worked together to better the community.

Social solidarity has been traditionally acknowledged as an element that gives an ethnic group a sense of tribalism and kinship. National identity is another way to encourage social solidarity and community cohesion, but historically, it has been associated with negative attributes. These have included animosity aimed at those from diverse groups, and even acts of violence perpetrated against those not belonging to that national group.

Communities that have high social cohesion encourage people to get out and meet new friends.
Communities that have high social cohesion encourage people to get out and meet new friends.

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