Community Cohesion – Renewing Our Sense of Purpose

In an increasingly diverse and interconnected world, the importance of social and community cohesion cannot be overstated. I’ve been thinking for some time about how we are walking into a danger zone that is about to strip away our sense of social cohesion because we don’t have sufficient counterbalances to the forces that want to disrupt and manipulate what we understand about one another.

Our sense of social unity is being challenged by nefarious and cynical forces from outside our society, that are intent on sowing division and hatred for political and partisan advantage. Can we protect and renew a shared sense of shared belonging, mutual understanding, and unity among different communities? Can we build stronger, more resilient societies that are enriched by their diversity rather than divided by it?

Given my experience working to support community media makers and advocates for many years, I’m convinced we need to use our media as a positive force for good, while learning how to defend ourselves from manipulation because we know how to make the media from the inside.

This is not merely a lofty ideal; it is a legal and moral responsibility for public organisations as laid down in the 2010 Equality Act. The Act stipulates that public organisations must, in carrying out their functions, “have due regard to the need to:

(a) Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act;
(b) Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;
(c) Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.”

These requirements underscore the fundamental principles of community cohesion: promoting understanding and respect between different communities, advocating for equal opportunities, and actively opposing all forms of discrimination and prejudice. They serve as a reminder that community cohesion is not only desirable for the wellbeing of our communities, but is also a statutory duty that public organisations must fulfil.

To this end, I’m floating the idea of a charter for community media advocacy with the purpose of promoting social and community cohesion. By outlining a clear framework of principles and goals, I’m hoping it’s possible for community-focussed communicators to come together and develop a statement that can guide community media makers, advocates, civic leaders, and members of the public in their efforts to promote community cohesion. I believe that through active participation, shared responsibility, and a collective commitment to these principles, we can make a real and lasting difference in our communities and beyond.

This is my first draft, and I want to open this up to discussion:

In advancing a sense of community cohesion, our purpose is to:

1. Promote Unity: We will strive to create and share content that promotes unity among diverse communities, fostering a sense of belonging, mutual respect, and shared values.

2. Encourage Dialogue: We will facilitate open, inclusive, and respectful conversations about difference, underpinned by a commitment to strengthen social bonds, emphasise shared interests, and build common ground.

3. Counteract Prejudice: We will actively challenge prejudice, discrimination, and harmful stereotypes, using our platforms to enlighten audiences and promote a better understanding of different cultures, traditions, and perspectives.

4. Highlight Positive Interactions: We will showcase examples of positive interactions and collaborations between different communities, thus demonstrating the benefits of diversity and intercultural exchange.

5. Support Equality: We will advocate for equality and inclusion in all aspects of society, highlighting the issues of social injustice and amplifying the voices of marginalized groups.

6. Foster Community Participation: We will encourage active community participation in media creation. This includes providing direct access to production platforms, distribution systems, and the administrative, management, and governance of the media we create and share. We believe that this direct involvement is the most effective way to counter misinformation, antagonistic and hateful assertions, bigotry, racism, and all forms of discriminatory communications.

7. Endorse Evidence-based Practices: We will commit to evidence-based practice, focusing on strategies and approaches that have been demonstrated to promote community cohesion and integration.

8. Engage in Collaborative Partnerships: We will seek partnerships with other organisations and individuals who share our commitment to community cohesion, understanding that a collaborative approach is the most effective way to address societal divisions.

9. Advocate for Policy Change: We will use our platforms to influence policy, advocating for regulations and initiatives that support community cohesion and social integration.

10. Continual Learning and Improvement: We will remain open to new ideas and approaches, continually seeking to learn, innovate, and improve our efforts to promote community cohesion.

11. Uphold Media Regulation Standards: We will abide by independent media regulation codes, such as the Impress Code or the Ofcom Broadcast Code, that advocate for responsible and ethical journalism.

12. Maintain Transparency: We will undertake open and transparent communication about our activities, ensuring accountability to our community and the public at large.

By subscribing to this charter, as it is developed based on collaborative improvement, I hope that signatories commit to using their influence and resources to promote community cohesion, working together to create a more integrated and less divided society.

I have a personal fear, deeply rooted but increasingly tangible, that a breakdown in social cohesion could lead to a society that is fragmented, antagonistic, and dysfunctional. The fabric that binds our communities, built on shared values, mutual understanding, and collaboration, risks being torn apart by division and discord. As it frays, we could see an erosion of trust, an escalation in conflict, and a surge of isolated and alienation. Such a society, marked by hostility rather than harmony, would not only be a distressing place to live but would also hinder our collective progress and prosperity. The threat of this scenario underscores the urgent need for all of us to actively work towards maintaining and enhancing social and community cohesion in our societies.

Please let me know what you think?

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    • Yes, it’s for consultation currently, so what we want is comments and feedback so that we get a sense if the wording and the sentiment is correct.

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