What is Social Cohesion?

“Promoting social cohesion, so that diversity is seen as a benefit rather than a threat, is investing in sustaining peace. As societies become more multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, people must feel that their identities are valued, even as they feel a sense of belonging to the larger community.” – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

Social cohesion refers to the extent of connectedness and harmony among groups in society. It identifies two main dimensions: the sense of belonging of a community and the relationships among members within the community itself. It stems from a democratic effort to establish social balance, economic dynamism, and national identity, with the goals of founding a system of equity, and avoiding social cracks.

Social cohesion is a social process which aims to consolidate plurality of citizenship by reducing inequality and socioeconomic differences in the society. It reflects people’s needs for both personal development and a sense of belonging and links together individual freedom and social justice, economic efficiency and the fair sharing of resources, and pluralism and common rules for resolving all conflicts.

Social cohesion can be described as the “glue” that binds society together, essential for achieving peace, democracy and equitable development. This “glue” is made up of four key components:

  1. Social Relationships
  2. Connectedness
  3. Orientation towards the common good and
  4. Equality

Social cohesion is perhaps one of the most fundamental policy challenges facing South Africa today. Since its independence and the end of apartheid two decades ago, and despite numerous government interventions, South Africa is yet to emerge as a socially cohesive nation. Social cohesion influences economic and social development, and nurturing a more cohesive society is an important policy goal in itself for any country. Whilst there is a widespread agreement that social cohesion influences economic and social development, and that nurturing a more cohesive society is an important policy goal in itself, there is far less consensus about what constitutes an appropriate definition of social cohesion in a South African context, or about the kinds of policies required to effectively promote a more cohesive society.

Based on the heading “Promoting Social Cohesion across Society” in National Development Plan, we see this project an opportunity to promote a more inclusive society by fighting with any dynamics that causes inequality of opportunities by creating this platform of concert to increase interaction between South Africans from different social and racial groups, as “daily interactions on an equal basis build social cohesion and common understanding.” (NDP, p473). So, we believe the significance of promoting these kind of interactions where South Africans, especially the young, share more public occasions. We also believe that, by creating partnerships with schools with the same values, we can create a more active and responsible citizenship and leadership across society.

Aims and objectives

Children, adolescents and young people make unique contributions to peace. It is their right to participate in decisions that affect them, including in situations affected by violence and conflict. Turquoise Harmony Institute supports the role of young people as agents of peace, helping them to develop key peacebuilding skills, foster reconciliation and strengthen relationships across divides.

So, through the establishment of an active network of NGOs and schools whose work speaks to the issue of social cohesion and peace building in South Africa, the project by Turquoise Harmony Institute aims to:

  • Offer NGOs and Educational institutions working in different fields an opportunity to connect, debate and collaborate about social cohesion;
  • Promote and enhance the visibility of the wealth of existing work that already exists on Social Cohesion;
  • Take seriously the task of translating existing evidence on effective social cohesion interventions into useful and implementable projects;
  • Help the youth be more involved in decision making and problem solving in South Africa’s current challenges to strengthen and deepen social cohesion in the communities,
  • Contribute to three of United Nations 17 Sustainable Development goals.


Step 1: Communication (Term 1)

The project will be communicated to the school principals, as well as the teachers, who will be in charge of running the project in each school.

THI will have workshops with teachers as well the students who will be a part of the project competitions. They will be provided with a detailed information about the objectives and the format of the competition, as well as Turquoise Harmony itself.

Step 2: Information (Term 2)

The students who are willing to participate in the competition will be equipped with necessary knowledge and tools to develop a social cohesion project through:

  1. Workshops/ seminars/ guest speakers on social cohesion in South African context.
  2. Site visits/ excursions to the relevant museums, organizations, institutions…etc.
  3. Documentary shows at schools
  4. Movie days about social cohesion.

Step 3: Project development, evaluation and awards (Term 3)

After getting equipped with necessary knowledge and data about “social cohesion”, the students will then develop a project with the theme “Social Cohesion for Stronger Communities” either individually or within a group. The project should be developed in such a way that it can easily be implemented in communities to overcome the challenge in communities that the students would like to address.

All projects from participant schools will be evaluated by using an assessment rubric and with feedback from experts from different fields. The assessment rubric is provided in Annexure A.

Awards for top 10 projects:

  • 1st place: R10000
  • 2nd place: R7500
  • 3rd place: R5000
  • 4th and 5th places: R2500
  • 6th – 10th places: R1500

Step 4: Implementation of the project in partnership with different organizations (Term 4)

The projects, which will then be implemented in different communities to overcome challenges in South Africa regarding social cohesion and reconciliation, will be chosen amongst all the projects regardless of their being within top ten projects. These projects will be decided by looking at “likelihood for success” criteria in the assessment rubric.

The projects will be implemented in partnership with different institutions and organizations to reach out more people and to get more sustainable outcomes. The students will play an active role in the projects, which will enable them to be actively involved in decision making in the process of tackling the problems of South Africans.