Toolkit and Program Guide for Social Cohesion and Resilience Assessment – Bangladesh

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The project aims to provide technical assistance to develop, pilot and disseminate a social cohesion and resilience assessment toolkit and program guide and was launched in 2021. It was designed to address the areas equity, empowerment, social cohesion and social responsibility. in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in Bangladesh. Social cohesion is recognized as an important factor in resilience/food security programs. Resilience – the ability to withstand or recover from shocks and stressors – supports social cohesion by preserving the institutions, relationships and patterns of behavior that form the foundation of cohesion. The relationship is reciprocal: the presence of social cohesion in a community or society builds resilience by encouraging relationships and areas of cooperation across potential fault lines. Building resilience can strengthen social cohesion which, in turn, helps build the capacity to resist and recover from major shocks such as conflict. 1 Strong social cohesion can act as an informal safety net in the event of food or climate shocks and is a prerequisite for equity around natural resources or other asset-based programs.

Although much work has been done to understand the relationship between resilience, food security and social cohesion, particularly through United States Agency for International Development (USAID)2 programming, Questions remain about the most effective social cohesion interventions to support this agenda. These questions focus on the types of projects and programs that can most effectively build on existing social networks and structures, and how the context affects the relevance of interventions and the strategy around their implementation. In addition, there are a number of different frameworks on social cohesion, but no single recognized measurement tool or method.

To fill these gaps, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Center for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development (SeeD) have partnered to develop, pilot and disseminate a toolkit for assessing social cohesion and resilience and a program guide (ATPG) based on tangible data. results emerging from CHT interventions in Bangladesh. The ATPG incorporates global learning and international best practices to measure social cohesion and reconciliation using SeeD’s Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Index (SCORE) and Social Cohesion Mini-Barometer CRS. Project results will feed into ongoing and future CRS programs in Bangladesh and around the world. Project results are expected to identify project and policy interventions that have the greatest potential to strengthen community cohesion, while building on existing social networks and structures.

The ATPG has been designed to assess the relevance of interventions and the strategy around their implementation and recommend best practices for social cohesion, including in a context of COVID-19, which will also contribute to the learning agenda. around social cohesion and food security. It is gender sensitive and replicable in other contexts, and incorporates social, political and economic indicators to measure changes in social cohesion within and between groups/communities.

As part of the project, CRS and SeeD piloted the toolkit and program guide in CHT’s Bandarban district and used the results to develop recommendations for adjusting implementation approaches and establishing new systems and practices. strategies to foster cohesion and measure change. By focusing on the most relevant combination of resilience factors, these will help communities and households successfully overcome structural deficits in food security, peaceful behaviors and psychological well-being.

About Irene J. O'Donnell

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