Social Cohesion Radar

Key facts

Authors
Bertelsmann Stiftung
Geographical focus
Europe and Central Asia
East Asia and Pacific
Main elements of social cohesion
Trust
Identity/feeling of belonging
Participation
Equality/Inequality
Orientation towards the common good
Solidarity
Shared values
Cooperation
Tolerance
Connectedness

Overview

Definition

The Social Cohesion Radar (SCR), developed by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, is a multidimensional measuring instrument that integrates different facets of cohesion. Social cohesion is understood as the quality of social cooperation and togetherness in a territorially delimited community. 

The SCR breaks down the concept of social cohesion into three domains — social relations, connectedness and focus on the common good. Each of these domains comprises three measurable dimensions: social networks, trust in people, acceptance of diversity, identification, trust in institutions, perception of fairness, solidarity and helpfulness, respect for social rules, and civic participation.

Description

Despite the growing popularity of the concept among researchers and politicians, no standard definition of the term “social cohesion” exists; nor is there a generally accepted series of indicators for measuring it. The result is that, despite the importance of the topic, empirical findings are still sorely needed. The Bertelsmann Stiftung therefore initiated the Social Cohesion Radar (SCR) project in order to advance research in this field and stimulate the relevant policy debate. The central objective was to measure social cohesion and to collect empirical data to serve as a basis for the political discussion.

The term “radar” was chosen after considerable deliberation. Radars make things visible that cannot be seen with the naked eye, either because they are hidden or because they are too far away. The SCR is thus a tool that makes it possible to gain a direct “insight” into a community’s social fabric. 

The SCR is based on the assumption that a highly cohesive society is characterized by resilient social relationships, a positive emotional connectedness between its members and the community, and a pronounced focus on the common good. Three core aspects or domains of social cohesion thus distinguish the approach proposed here: social relations, connectedness, and the focus on the common good. Social relations represent the horizontal network that exists between individuals and social groups. Connectedness refers to the positive ties uniting people and the community as such and its institutions. Focus on the common good describes the actions and attitudes of society’s members, through which responsibility for others and the community is expressed.

This multidimensional concept of social cohesion, takes as its template a modern, inclusive, cohesive society, one that does not by definition view heterogeneity (e.g. religious or ethnic) as an expression of limited cohesion. In this regard, it is also true that an ethnically homogeneous population and a consensus on values are not defining characteristics of cohesion, something that does, however, apply to the acceptance of differing values and of diversity per se. This reflects the normative belief that social cohesion among the majority cannot exist at the expense of excluded minorities.

A second aspect is also not included in this approach: the distribution of goods within society. It has been repeatedly argued that equality and an equal distribution of wealth is one of cohesion’s core elements. We disagree. While we do recognize that, among others, income and wealth inequality are key factors impacting social cohesion, we maintain that they should not also be constituent components: The distribution of material goods can influence social cohesion, but for that to be the case, cohesion and distribution must be separated conceptually.

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