Social Cohesion

In Europe today, despite longstanding policies at both the national and EU levels to decrease disparities and avoid marginalisation, pockets of deep and persistent poverty are growing. This is fuelling the social divides and political polarisation which characterise most societies in today’s modern world.  

We are living through a period of accelerated change punctuated by multiple crises.

  • Ecology: our consumption of resources exceeds the regeneration capacity of Planet Earth by more than 1.5 times. Natural disasters are on the rise, with no credible pathways in place to secure 1.5C.
  • Finance & Economy: The concentration of wealth and inequalities is increasingly staggering, with the top 1% owning more than the bottom 90%, while extreme poverty increased in 2020 for the first time in 25 years. Most money moves in superficial and non-productive ways and international trade is merely 1.4% of foreign exchange transactions.
  • Politics: the crisis of legitimacy is evident in electoral turnouts the world over. We are also facing a governance crisis: our coordination mechanisms, often over-reliant on market mechanisms, are decoupled from the crisis affecting the Common Good.

Underlying all these are socio-cultural patterns of fear and a lack of moral imagination.

We are clearly reaching the limits of current paradigms of thinking and being in the world.

What we need are more social technologies that help us connect the spheres of Self, Culture, and System, in order to move towards more inclusive identities.

  • New social imaginaries: We need to create and tell new stories that help us embrace a larger, more inclusive version of ‘us’. We need to engage in healthy dialogue, practicing attention and deep listening. We need leadership styles based on courage and integrity.
  • New ways of collaboration: We need joint learning and action across sectors. Not just bringing actors together but fostering new ways of being together and belonging in society that do not ask us to split parts of ourselves and leave our differences at the door. Such collaboration would lead to new social models of organisation going beyond traditional hierarchy.
  • We also need updated economic models, anchored in values of fairness, cooperation, and solidarity, which offer social protection for all without pushing against planetary boundaries.

Going beyond old growth models also invites new models of philanthropy focused on applying resources for the greatest good here and now, transcending myths of perpetuity.

Such a switch requires a fundamental shift in mindset and a holistic way of understanding ourselves and human nature, our very well-being.

Well-being relates to the whole person. It encompasses the four main types of human intelligence as well as interconnected physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual capacities and needs.

Social Cohesion

A truly prosperous society is a society that protects and promotes the well-being of all its citizens.

This orientation is already anchored on the global scene through composite indicators for development such as the UNDP’s Human Development Index, which recognizes growth alone is not a meaningful measure of societal well-being and prosperity. It is also expressed through analysis of longitudinal data on inequality showing that well-being increases with material prosperity, but only up to a point; and that pronounced inequalities do erode cohesion and the democratic base of societies.

In particular, in the last decade, Thomas Piketty has written convincingly on the role of ideology and political narratives in sustaining inequalities, with detrimental effects on broad-based prosperity and cohesion.

In the footsteps of such seminal work, the Inner Development Goals initiative shines a light on the actual set of skills and abilities needed to work effectively in a more comprehensible way on the complex challenges of poverty, inequality, and social polarization.

The initiative reflects the realization that the inner and outer are always connected – this is the basis of systems thinking.

It also understands that capabilities often are properties of systems rather than individuals. To move towards practical change, we, therefore, need to address the blind spot in managing global sustainability goals, by developing maturity and capabilities in both individuals and collectives.

Our success with progress on global sustainability goals depends on such skills.


An Integral Approach to Social cohesion

Such an integral approach helps us move from theory to practice, applying knowledge toward more sustainable collective outcomes.

It starts with the realisation that our inner conflicts and our relational crises are connected: the more I disconnect and marginalise inside myself, the more I stand in opposition to ‘others’ in society. And the more polarization increases on the social level, the more it ‘grows’ inside members of society. Sometimes as lumps of ‘rogue’ cells. An ecosystem gone wrong.

An integral approach recognises the inherent wholeness of the living world. Through this lens, social cohesion is about more than reducing material poverty, it is about the strength of relationships in society, it is about belonging.

The solution thus needs to be pursued at both the individual and the collective levels, both inside and outside, through the expansion of awareness and the uncovering of new social models of organisation.

For the Gergina Foundation, integral social development is about doing the deep social justice work required to simultaneously dismantle social oppression outside us – what we diagnose as poverty and marginalization, and inside us – what we diagnose as illness.

We work to help people break through the oppressive grip of fear patterns existing both inside us, in our culture, and which are translated at the system level through the social, political, and economic institutions we have created.

Our work for both integral health and social cohesion is thus a work of liberation.

  • We pioneer integral intervention models that combine working with people and communities in all their different aspects – psychodynamic, cognitive, socio-cultural, and physical levels.
  • We create the conditions for exchange that make it possible for the persons we work with to gain awareness of their multi-dimensionality and to live up to their full potential.
  • We support societal well-being through the broadening of the circle of human concern.

True diversity in society requires us to be comfortable with and attentive to our own inner diversity.