12 July 2016

Why Social Cohesion is Necessary for Community Safety

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At first, I didn’t quite understand the connection between social cohesion and community safety. I could see how they’re both important, and they’re definitely both good for communities—but I didn’t see the clear link between the two. 

Upon doing some more research, I found a really great scholarly article about the important relationship between social cohesion and community safety. For those of you who don’t have a Jstor account (shout out to my university for giving me free access), allow me to explain the key points:

Social Outcomes:  Social outcomes include the economic, health, and safety of a community. These social outcomes are often distributed differently amongst different social groups within a community. 

For example, the article cites higher socioeconomic class status as being strongly correlated with better social outcomes. Collectively, the social outcomes of all of these groups together combine to make up the overall social outcome of a community.

For local government, this means that there are two things to think about: the social outcomes of particular social groups and the collective social outcomes of the community as a whole.

Social cohesion: Social cohesion is defined as “the willingness of members of a society to cooperate with each other in order to survive and prosper”. There is evidence that increase of social cohesion leads to two things:

  1. Better collective social outcomes for the entire community
  2. A more equitable distribution of social outcomes among social groups

How? Briefly put, social cohesion increases community investment. Individuals are more likely to invest their time, money, and effort into a community if they believe they’ll benefit from it. This increase in investment can lead to an increase in social outcomes for the entire community.

If you’re economically minded: social cohesion means that your inputs are greater due to increased community investment, which leads to greater outputs as more people are involved in the processing of these inputs.

The studies have also found that increased social cohesion leads to greater respect for institutional rules and norms of behaviour. This makes sense—if people are invested in the creation of the rules and community norms, they’re more likely to follow them. This leads to less crime, as people are more engaged in their communities. As you can see, this process is cyclical—increased social cohesion leads to better social outcomes, which means people further invest in the community, leading to more social cohesion.

To summarize: social cohesion is awesome. However, in order to obtain the benefits from this cycle, local governments have to spark an initial burst of social cohesion in a community.

How do you create that spark? This year’s 3rd Annual National Community Safety Summit takes a special focus on social cohesion, with industry experts sharing strategies for what has successfully increased social engagement in their communities. 

Sydney is from the United States and is spending her American summer /Australian winter working as a Marketing Intern at Akolade. In a few months she’ll start her third year at the University of Michigan and is working towards a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies. After she graduates, she’s hoping to work in consulting or marketing, but still isn't quite sure what she wants to be when she grows up.  

This is Sydney’s first time in Australia, and she’s been surprised that people haven’t laughed at her name more. So far, she’s adjusting to the slight cultural differences (Australian coffee is better, some words are spelled a tad differently, and “carryout” food is called “takeaway” food). She’s excited to be working with the marketing team at Akolade and continuing her business education outside of the classroom.

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