This report explores how local authorities and Britain’s communities can best work together towards greater cohesion. It is divided into two parts: a Practical Framework, which gives practical tips to those working towards community cohesion at the local level; and a Contextual Framework, which analyses the theories and evidence that underpin the current policy agenda on community cohesion.

Over the course of the last decade there has been a growing public debate about the changing nature of Britain’s social fabric. The media, academic researchers and government reports all paint a picture of a society that is struggling to cope with a transient population and changing economic climate. Tension, it appears, is everywhere: between different generations, immigrants and settled residents, Muslim and Christian populations. The effects of this perceived strain on our social fabric are not only manifested in corroding social relationships but are seen to be linked to any number of problems. Be it crime, racism, voter apathy or overcrowding, Britain is deemed to be fracturing into a nation of divided communities, loyalties and identities; ill at ease with itself.

Although there is disagreement about what causes these social divides, there is a general consensus that promoting cohesion and integration is vital if Britain is to successfully face the challenges of the 21st century. In these discussions, there is an emerging recognition that community relationships benefit from people coming together to deal with shared issues and concerns. As a consequence, there is a general consensus running through current policy debates that public participation can provide part of the answer to building strong and cohesive communities.

It is this assumption that is the focus of this report. It presents the findings from a study into the relationship between public participation, community cohesion and empowerment. It draws upon a literature review and the experiences and insights of a broad range of people from local and central government, academia and third sector organisations.

You can download the publication here.