With the first of this year’s TEDxBrayford Pool Salon’s about Making a 22nd-Century City on the horizon, which explores the theme of Place, we look at the concept of community cohesion and its importance in creating cities of the future.
So, what IS community cohesion?
Community cohesion refers to the level of connectedness and sense of belonging among individuals in a given community and is vital for the development of a healthy and sustainable society.
The sense of belonging is an essential part of human nature, and it can be influenced by various factors, including cultural backgrounds, social values, and physical environments. As a subject community cohesion is multifaceted and complex, so with that in mind, this article looks at the impact of Place on community cohesion. Specifically examining how physical environments, such as neighbourhoods, public spaces, and buildings, can affect community cohesion.
The Importance of Community Cohesion
Community cohesion is essential for the social and economic development of a society. Cohesive communities tend to have lower levels of crime, better health outcomes, and higher levels of social capital. Social capital refers to the networks, norms, and trust that facilitate cooperation and collaboration among individuals and groups.
Community cohesion is also important for the well-being of individuals. A strong sense of belonging to a community can provide individuals with emotional support, a sense of purpose, and a source of identity and pride. However, community cohesion is not always easy to achieve, and it can be influenced by various factors, including place. Physical environments, such as neighbourhoods, public spaces, and buildings, can have a significant impact on community cohesion.
Neighbourhoods are one of the most critical physical environments that can affect community cohesion. They can be defined as a geographic area with specific boundaries, where people live, work, and interact. They can vary in size, density, and population, and they can have different social and economic characteristics.
Neighbourhoods can affect community cohesion in various ways. For example, neighbourhoods that are designed to be walkable, with sidewalks, bike lanes, and public transportation, can facilitate social interaction and connection among residents. Walkable neighbourhoods also tend to have lower levels of crime, as more people are out and about, which can increase feelings of safety and security.
Neighbourhoods that are diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status can also facilitate community cohesion. Diversity can provide opportunities for individuals to learn about and appreciate different cultures, which can increase understanding and empathy among residents. However, this diversity can also lead to conflicts and tensions, particularly if there is a lack of communication and understanding among different groups.
Another problem that can affect community cohesion in neighbourhoods is gentrification. At its simplest, this is the process of improving neighbourhoods at the expense of its poorer residents. It can erase a community’s history and culture and also reduce the social capital within a neighbourhood. The process often displaces the poorer community by simply pricing them out of the area.
Check out these great TED Talks by Theaster Gates and Liz Ogbu about reviving neighbourhoods with art and how gentrification can heal communities instead of displacing them.
Public spaces, such as parks, plazas, and community centres, can also have a significant impact on community cohesion. Public spaces provide opportunities for social interaction and connection among residents.
Public spaces that are designed to be inclusive, accessible, and welcoming can facilitate community cohesion. For example, public spaces that are easily accessible to individuals with disabilities, with seating areas, and shade structures, can attract a diverse range of users and promote social interaction and connection.
However, public spaces can also be exclusive and unwelcoming, particularly if they are designed with specific groups in mind. For example, public spaces that are designed with lots of steps and different levels may not be attractive or accessible to the elderly, those with disabilities or those with young children, which can lead to feelings of exclusion and isolation.
Dive deeper with Amanda Burden and Matthew Mazzott to explore public space further, in their TED Talks about making public space in cities work and creating playful public spaces that allow communities to dream.
Buildings, such as schools, libraries, and community centres, can also have a significant impact on community cohesion. They serve as gathering places for residents, providing opportunities for social interaction, learning, and cultural exchange. However, buildings can also contribute to social isolation and exclusion if they are not designed to be inclusive and accessible.
Schools, for example, can be important community hubs, providing opportunities for parents and children to connect with each other and with other members of the community. Schools that are designed with community spaces, such as auditoriums and gyms, can also serve as venues for community events, such as performances and sports games. However, schools can also be exclusive and divisive if they are located in neighbourhoods with high levels of segregation or if they lack resources and support for marginalized students.
Libraries and community centres are also important buildings that can promote community cohesion. Libraries can provide access to information and resources for residents, as well as opportunities for social interaction and learning. Community centres can serve as gathering places for residents, providing spaces for activities and events that promote social connection and cultural exchange. However, libraries and community centres can also be exclusive and unwelcoming if they are not designed to be accessible and inclusive for all members of the community.
Find out more about the way buildings and architecture can affect community cohesion with these TED Talks from Chera Kowalski and John Cary as they look at how libraries play a critical role in the opioid crisis and how architecture can create dignity for all.
In conclusion, Place can have a significant impact on community cohesion. Physical environments, such as neighbourhoods, public spaces, and buildings, can affect social interaction, connection, and understanding among residents. Neighbourhoods that are designed to be walkable, diverse, and inclusive can promote community cohesion, while public spaces and buildings that are accessible, welcoming, and inclusive serve as important gathering places for residents.
However, physical environments can also contribute to social isolation and exclusion if they are designed without specific groups in mind or if they lack resources and support for marginalized residents. Therefore, it is essential to design physical environments that promote community cohesion and to invest in resources and support that help to build and sustain strong, resilient, and inclusive communities.
As individuals, we can also play a role in promoting community cohesion by actively engaging with our neighbours, participating in community events and activities, and advocating for policies and practices that support inclusiveness, accessibility, and diversity. By working together, we can create physical environments that facilitate social connection and understanding, promoting a sense of belonging and community for all residents.
If you want to join the wider conversation around community cohesion in Lincoln join us for our first TEDxBrayford Pool Salon of the year, Place, at Mosaic Digital Hub. Click on the image to book tickets.