Community Cohesion: Meet Your Neighbours

What is 'Community'?

The concept of community is multi-faceted and sophisticated, 'community' means different things to differing people, it is no more about people within spatial areas. Below are three extensive notions or fighting meanings of community:-

Community as a locality or geographical area

Community as a location of common life or interest

Community as identification, that is distinguishable from other groups

'The key thing to keep in mind is a community always involves lots of other communities, be they based on ethnicity, gender, age, disability, location etc. Essentially, all communities are connected and intertwined in an array of various ways. No individual community is so different from the rest of society that its particular needs should not be comprehended'. (Icoco, 2009)

Society has transformed as time passes, Talcott Parsons, identifies the structural functions of a normal society, 'shut' community, as people having a concept of caring or strong bonds, affectionate, ascription, exclusive determination to a specific group and collective orientation. Whereas, modern society, 'available' community, describes affection disappearing in a widespread, impersonal, more individualistic, goal influenced, 'dog eat dog' or self- orientated culture.

Community Cohesion

The Cohesion Institute (2009) says that, 'the term 'community cohesion' has been around for centuries in the writings of political theorists. It really is widely used to describe circumstances of tranquility or tolerance between people from different backgrounds living in just a community. It really is from the concept of sociable capital and the idea that if we realize our neighbours and donate to community activity then we will look out for each and every other, increase cohesion and minimise the cost of dependency and institutional care'.

The concept of community cohesion emerged in the UK in 2001, following riots in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham. The independent Community Cohesion Review Team, chaired by Ted Cantle, produced a written report in 2001, half a year following the riots. The 'Cantle Article', provided 'a countrywide overview of the express of contest and community relationships'.

Polarised and segregated areas were highlighted in the survey, in which people led 'parallel lives'. Sixty seven advice were made whilst these still highlighted the necessity to take on inequalities, the recommendations were much more wide ranging and directed a new approach to competition and diversity.

As Holden, points out, at the same time when tensions are high and towns are becoming more and more segregated, detrimental images of English towns, the necessity for cohesion has never been greater. More recent difficulties for community cohesion have also come from international and national terrorist activities. (ICOCO, 2009)

The meaning of Community Cohesion has evolved since 2000, it is definitely based on a vision and value for variety, however, the newest definition comes with an increased focus on the value of integration and shared citizenship: -

Definition - Neighborhoods and MUNICIPALITY (2008)

"Community cohesion is what must happen in every communities to allow different groups of people to can get on well together. An integral contributor to community cohesion is integration which is what must eventually enable new residents and existing residents to adapt to one another.

Our perspective of an integrated and cohesive community is based on three foundations:

People from differing backgrounds having similar life opportunities

People knowing their protection under the law and responsibilities

People trusting each other and trusting local institutions to do something fairly

And three ways of living together:

A shared future eye-sight and sense of belonging

A focus on what new and existing communities have in common, alongside a acknowledgement of the worthiness of diversity

Strong and positive interactions between folks from different backgrounds. "

Source: The Government's Response to the Commission on Integration and Cohesion (CLG, Feb 2008).

Communities will always be diverse, 'the key is a 'common connection' between your people who collectively make up an identifiable community. '

The Cantle Survey discovered the role of institutions to be central to breaking barriers between teenagers and helping to create cohesive areas.

In a recent article Cantle (2010), talks about how 'racial segregation can be bridged if we engage with youth. . . young people do not necessarily find it easy to construct bridges with those from other backgrounds'. 'Young people do want integration. They need mixed colleges and communities. They view it as an enriching experience and they want the possibility to find out about others and understand different cultures and faiths'. (Cantle, 2010, Guardian - www. Guardian. co. uk)

The purpose of the initiative examined in this report, aimed to do just this, by including eighteen teenage girls from three universities in the North West.

Background - 'Meet Your Neighbours'

'Meet Your Neighbours' was a task which brought mutually eighteen girls from a Christian, Muslim and a non-faith school in the North Western for a two day personal in February 2007. A succeeding meeting was then arranged to examine the effects of the program with parents, teachers and governors.

The job was run and funded with a relationship between Blackburn with Darwen council, UNISON North Western world, Communities and Local Government and Improvement and Development Organization (IDeA).

Blackburn's community cohesion target is 'To promote a united community where people from different backgrounds feel they can get on well collectively and participate in Blackburn with Darwen'. (Blackburn with Darwen Local Strategic Partnership's, People and Communities Strategy, 2006/7).

Blackburn with Darwen has a long proven record of promoting community cohesion and has received national recognition because of its work.

'Community Cohesion is a concern for the council and Local Proper partnership for several years with an obvious focus on proposal'. 'Blackburn with Darwen has some of the highest levels of domestic and educational segregation in the united states and there are indicators that this is growing particularly in schools'. (Cantle, 2009)

Bridging 'parallel lives', to be able to improve the feeling that folks from different backgrounds get on well together, facilitates Blackburn with Darwen's Community Cohesion strategy. It seeks to build on existing school twinning programs and extend the level of contact and geographic limitations, by including universities from various areas of the North Western world.

'Work, education and leisure supply the potential to be important meeting points for folks from different cultural and economical backgrounds. To market a modern culture where people from different backgrounds can get on well along, it is vital to market work which really helps to bridge parallel lives through these each day activities.

In Blackburn with Darwen, an impressive and successful school twinning programme has been founded to provide opportunities for different areas to come together and collaborate because of their mutual advantage and learning, but other opportunities exist to help expand promote communication, understanding and a friendly relationship. ' (CLG, 2007)

Statutory obligations including the Race Relations (Amendment) Function 2000, positioned particular duties upon public body, including schools to eliminate unlawful discrimination, promote equality and good relations between different racial categories. 'Duty to market community cohesion in institutions' was also introduced in 2007 under the 2006 Education Act, which required universities to take far better action to promote community cohesion, which institution twinning is specifically recommended to promote cross-cultural understanding.

Key aims and objectives of the task included:

To provide opportunities for teenagers from differing backgrounds who live and attend school in several surroundings, where they merge with hardly any folks from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, to interact in a significant way.

To interact, discuss community cohesion, show experiences and ultimately recognise commonalities instead of differences.

It also directed to extend the level of contact and the geographical boundaries of the concept of college twinning.

Evaluation

As with any one-off task, the impact of cohesion is difficult to measure. However, the initiative has been commended by all stakeholders, who assume that it has already established tangible influences beyond the girls who got part in the personal. Parents, headteachers and governors were involved with a post job event, with opportunities to interact, allowing experiences and learning from the project to be shared more broadly within the colleges allowing learning to be cascaded to the wider community.

'Although the original event was small range, the participating colleges have decided to build up the links that were created, by organising exchange sessions that enable a greater number of students to profit. The two beliefs institutions are also working along to suggest reading materials to promote greater spiritual understanding. Additionally it is reported that taking part students have continued to be in contact, suggesting that the project has already established long-term effects on direct members, together with a substantial focus on increasing its benefits beyond those directly included. ' (CLG, 2007)

The project produced a booklet and a DVD (Appendix 1), which provides very positive lessons and may be helpful for other institutions, local regulators or other communities that need to improve community cohesion, where the emphasis is promoting a sense of belonging and ethnic understanding.

Evaluation forms providing feedback about successes of the job and ideas for advancements were completed by individuals and provided some indication about how attitudes may be changing, allowing the initiative to be critically assessed.

Successes included, expanding understanding of other religions, but many also summarize being surprised to find they have so much in keeping with ladies from different backgrounds.

"I was surprised at the fact that there are so many things common between all of us including ambitions. " Participant

"How quickly after we became wide open with one another we found common ground and it was the similarities that stood out as opposed to the dissimilarities. " Participant

Therefore, the job achieved one of its goals, to enable young people from different faith (or no beliefs) communities to recognise the attitudes, encounters and goals that they promote.

Communities and Local Government emphasises the role of contribution and engagement as an sign but also a drivers of cohesion.

'Building a commonality around real life issues is regarded as having most value to cohesion, rather than campaign of civic beliefs as has been emphasised in previous books'. (CLG, 2007)

Whilst researching the job one of the event organisers from Blackburn with Darwen was also approached to go over the task. Questioned if anything could or must have been done diversely, the reactions were all positive, professing that the job would be carried out invariably the same manner, and that a similar project had been completed with young boys from diverse ethnic backgrounds because of this of this effort. This too was also deemed a success, there have been uncertainties that the males would not interact as well as the girls. However, this was not, again barriers were eradicated, stereotypes challenged and it provided the participants gratitude of youths from other backgrounds. For further information on this task please see Appendix 2.

Research in the 'What Works' in Community Cohesion Article, found that many thought that the 'sustainability of any effort is a useful measure of success, given that action on the long-term is key for making sure real impact, and this interest in continuing the work of something also reveals it is recognized to be valuable'.

Disappointingly, a criticism of this initiative is the fact that more suitable lasting long term initiatives are required to have the best impact, in case this effort has proven so successful, why are more projects such as this not being replicated more regularly? Many factors will certainly impinge on this, including scarce resources, lack of trained professionals required to help in the residentials', also lack of co-operation from both colleges and parents could present issues. A spokesperson from Blackburn Project level states:

"It's very, very hard to persuade a college, who's facing large sums of pressures to seriously plank " (CLG, 2007).

It is extremely important that successful initiatives are ongoing, as Cantle points out,

'young peoples positive actions are often undone by the entrenched views of aged people'.

Unfortunately, at the moment there aren't enough events or teenagers involved to have a significant impact. Research shows that long-term initiatives seem to be to work best with jobs and networks producing in a sustainable way, with young people recruiting others to take part, and youth market leaders are rising as positive role models, all contributing to the ongoing success of projects. (CLG, 2007)

Capacity building also performs a great part in virtually any successful initiative, this example proven to have determined lovers and builds on and expands a successful existing four way relationship and potentially provides a strong basis for future cooperation on community cohesion initiatives.

Recommendations

In May 2009, the Institute of Community Cohesion produced a 'Baseline Community Cohesion review with a give attention to integration' for Blackburn and Darwen, some of the recommendations out of this report highly relevant to embedding community cohesion within our youth, are layed out below:-

Undertake proactive promotions with parents, communities to promote the positive benefits associated with diverse schools

Further develop school linking projects, extend these to father or mother organizations and the wider community

Ensuring all colleges are available to wider use and then for different communities, for example for adult learning programmes

Develop joint coaching across different schools

Develop joint arts and sports and other programmes, across schools

Challenging faith schools to reconsider their admissions policies in the light of the effect on cohesion

Seeking to maximise the potential of funding to produce more diverse schools

'The Council and LSP have also accepted that community cohesion is not simply about cohesion between different ethnic groups but is approximately many things that bind neighborhoods together. This consists of religious, physical and inter-generational issues. However, the troubles facing the borough are significant. We think that a renewed, even more ambitious programme with the widest possible involvement is necessary if these obstacles are to be met successfully and the expert is to stay at the forefront of practice in promoting cohesion'.

This document are available at:

www. blackburn. gov. uk/. . . /090505_Final_Blackburn_Executive_Summary_12E. doc

As discussed there have been many positive outcomes from the initiative, including, misconception busting, friendships created and understanding promoted, obstacles eradicated and understanding of similarities. Though it was small level, it was nevertheless effective, there have been positive impacts beyond the immediate participants, whilst there is absolutely no quick fix solution, small steps will bring benefits. As Burgess, LEADER of Blackburn with Darwen, highlights, this initiative 'placed teenagers at the centre of important work', which is paramount to achieving a more cohesive modern culture, with tasks that concentrate on commonalities and similarities rather than focussing on variations could ensure more cohesive neighborhoods in the foreseeable future.

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