2.Participatory Approaches to address Social Cohesion in Sustainability Research
Michael Weinhardt (Technische Universität Berlin, Germany)
Katharina Löhr (Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) e.V., Germany)
Social cohesion is generally seen as a desirable feature of society and widely used as a policy objective. The UNDP specifically have recognized the importance of social cohesion for peace-building and sustainable development. Despite its importance, definitions of the concept as well as ways to measure it vary widely, leaving its contours unclear and open for debate. There seems to be a consensus, however, that different levels are important in understanding social cohesion: from individual attitudes to community relations up to connections at the country level. At the same time, as the conceptions and measurements of social cohesion originated in Western traditions of thought, they may be viewed very differently from the Global South. If the concept is to be applied in a meaningful way in the global discourse and research on sustainable development, it needs further clarification through the integration of diverse perspectives at various levels of society. The paper discusses tools and methods for community and stakeholder involvement in the Global South in order to understand the concept and its impact at the local level, resulting in context-specific conceptions of social cohesion. From a Citizen Science perspective, this amounts to the task of co-creating or co-designing conceptual definitions and measurement indicators for tapping local knowledge and involving the views of non-scientists in the process. This will enable the design of policy interventions to build social cohesion on the local level, the development of community specific indicators to evaluate policy interventions locally, as well as the comparison of social cohesion levels across countries.