Social cohesion involves building shared values and communities of interpretation, 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. Social cohesion and trust, when high, ultimately help structure collective productive action, which ultimately functions as the cornerstone of collective efficacy. Cohesion happens in the intersection of three levels – community, individual, and institutional – therefore all three levels need to be considered to understand social cohesion.
Level of the Community. The level of community is, for e.g. the shared loyalties, mutual moral support, social capital, strong social bonds, trust, social environment, formal/informal control, overlap of individuals’ friendship networks, pressures for conformity and caring, civic society, reciprocal loyalty and solidarity, strength of social relations, shared values, common goals, moral behaviour and norms, values of rewards in groups, and process performance and goal attainment.
Level of the Individual. The level of the individual is, for e.g. the individuals’ intimate face-to-face communication, task competence, degree of like-dislike, initiative, individual behaviour, quality of intimate topics shared, sense of belonging, inclusion, individual participation, recognition and legitimacy.
Level of the Institutions. The level of institutions consists of, for e.g. social disorganization, lack of social conflict, life satisfaction, voting, social behaviour, suicide rates, civic society, trust and multiculturalism, and reduction of inequalities and exclusion.
In promotion of cohesive and engaged communities, leaders must create a sense of collective identity and mutual support. This includes building a sense of local identity, social networks, and safe space; promoting features of an inclusive local cultural heritage; and encouraging cultural diversity while promoting tolerance and a willingness to accept other cultures. Social cohesion is, thus, 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 granting at the same time equal rights and opportunities in society.
Social cohesion is a function of a member’s level and type of group involvement. Cohesion can be a continually changing or an enduring state of a group dependent upon the member’s identification with and commitment to group norms. The cohesiveness of groups can change as some members leave and new members join the group. Homans points out that a group controls its members by creating rewards for them, which it can threaten to withdraw. Cohesiveness refers to the value of rewards available in a group; the more valuable the activities a member receives from other members, the more cohesive the group.
The stronger the identification with a group’s norms and the higher the value given to group rewards, the greater the group cohesion. On the other hand, a weak identification with a group’s norms and a lack of rewards for members result in tentative cohesion and tenuous group survivability. The optimum level of cohesion is one where group identification is not so strong that it cannot appreciate differences in other groups and where the self-concept of individual members is not exclusively dependent upon one group.
Looking at a number of different examples of healthy egalitarian societies, an
important characteristic they all seem to share is their social cohesion. They have a strong community life… individualism and the values of the market are restrained by a social morality… there are fewer signs of anti-social aggressiveness and society appears more caring. In short, the social fabric is in better condition.
Research surrounding socially cohesive organization finds that connectedness is the essence when looking at the nature of collective participation. For a collective to form a ‘whole’ that is more than the sum of the parts, people have to ‘connect’ with each other within the collective. Without the connection there is nothing. If they do not connect with each other in the group they cannot perform together. Through this cohesion the collective forms a collective identity. A collective identity as an essential component of collective participation has emerged in past displays on numerous occasions. People who are more convinced that their community can accomplish things are more likely to become
involved with their community (and conversely).
A better understanding of the outcomes of a group’s perceived collective efficacy holds potential to deepen our understanding of how to improve organizational culture. Mutual influence relationship help to explain the consistent finding that perceived collective efficacy is a significant factor in the attainment of organizational goals. The concept of collective efficacy refers to the idea that groups exhibit variable beliefs about efficacy for achieving shared community goals. Understanding the collective representations associated with perceptions of community organisation is a crucial component in explaining the variation of crime across loosely connected communities. Examining the salient symbols associated with generating a culture of trust and shared values can enhance our understanding of collective efficacy in contemporary urban settings where strong ties are few, collective membership is voluntary and interests are diffuse and often conflicting
The motivation towards collective participation in work has shown to also be influenced by the enabling environment of the collective and the skills and knowledge gained in the collective. The more enabling the environment, the more motivated a person is to engage in, and to continue engaging in this enabling environment. This is influenced by an open attitude among members, a welcoming atmosphere in the group and during meetings as well as the collective cohesion. Learning in social settings was heavily influenced by the quality of collaboration, mutual support, cooperation, and empathy among learners and instructors. With concepts like mutual dependence, care, and hospitality, and through embedding them into our programming, ultimately will enable the creation of a safe and vital learning environment.
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