Australian Social Cohesion: Exploring New Directions

Strengthening social cohesion for the prosperity and wellbeing of all Australians.

Social cohesion affects all levels of social outcomes from health to economic prosperity. As the “glue” that enables society to function well and advance common goals, social cohesion is critical for individual and community well-being and a thriving democracy.

In times of economic downturn and climate disaster, strong social cohesion bolsters community resilience, increasing ability to take collective action to address needs and problems. Declines in social cohesion are associated with higher costs of security, business and health.

With the support of the ANU Grand Challenges Scheme, the Australian Social Cohesion: Exploring New Directions (ASCEND) Program will design methods and tools for strengthening social cohesion in an increasingly fragmented world.

Research Goals

We all have an interest and a role in building social cohesion: government, business, academia, our local communities and us all as individuals. But how do we go about it?

ASCEND takes an evidenced based approach to equip all members of society to contribute to positive social change. To do this we need to investigate:

  • Indicators that measure positive community impact from social cohesion programs
  • Accessible practical methods to engage communities in creating effective social cohesion interventions
  • Financial instruments to encourage sustainable investment in social cohesion projects

Real World Objectives

ASCEND's primary objective is to translate theories about social cohesion into practice, including:

  • A new interdisciplinary measurement tool to assess social cohesion in Australia
  • A mapping tool for community and government planning and decision-making.
  • Reports on strategies to strengthen social cohesion including public policy, citizenship laws, and social enterprises which will inform the development of new solutions;
  • A model of community engagement including assessment of risks.
  • Repository of social impact bonds and proposed models for social cohesion impact bonds
  • A strong interdisciplinary team of researchers establishing the collaborative partnerships with relevant agencies and not-for-profits.

For more details, please see Our research.


If you'd like to help shape the future of social cohesion in Australia, please start a conversation with Kate Reynolds or Sharyn McFarlane.

Social Cohesion Research Network

Our Social Cohesion Research Network connects researchers working on or with an interest in social cohesion. Our network provides a forum for ongoing, open discussion and sharing of ideas among institutes.

Communication is maintained by email through google groups. People who are part of the network can post to the group and respond to other posts via email.

Join the network (opens google forms)

View members (opens google sheets)

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