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Social cohesion in multi-ethnic urban neighbourhood - Strengthening community resilience through urban planning
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1  University of Wuppertal, Institute for Public Safety and Emergency Management


Sociological research into the ability of communities to withstand disasters has coined the term of “community resilience” as a mechanism of social systems for dealing with unexpected external disturbances. The concept of community resilience locates adaptive and coping potentials in both individual and collective capacities of members of society, which are developed and proven in everyday social life. However, in multi-ethnic societies trustful relationships among neighbours and an active participation in social life are frequently put into question: The more diverse a society or a community, the lower the willingness of its members to develop close ties with their fellow community members and to intervene on behalf of a common good. Urban planning thus faces the challenge of developing convivial neighbourhoods that promote social cohesion and a sense of community in an increasingly heterogeneous context that enables diverse communities to pursue collective-action efforts and to provide for collective goods. In answering the question of what mechanisms are needed for enhancing community resilience, we understand urban planning in a broader context in which spatially based approaches are embedded in the cooperative work of community development and neighbourhood organisations. Against this background, we will introduce findings from the German research project ResOrt (Resilience through social cohesion – The role of organisations). Rooted in Robert Sampson’s “collective efficacy”-approach and adapted from an extensive review of policy papers and practical guidelines the presentation will be based on guided interviews with experts from a broad variety of organisations in the fields of district development and community work. The focus of the presentation will be a practice-oriented model comprising different dimensions and interdependences of social cohesion and community resilience, proposing future directions for integrating community resilience building efforts into an extended structure of urban planning and district development processes.

Keywords: Community resilience; urban planning; social cohesion; collective efficacy; ethnic heterogeneity