Social cohesion in the context of COVID-19

Researchers: Prof Dominic Abrams | Jo Broadwood ...

Project overview


This project will collect longitudinal data from across Britain to investigate how social cohesion is being affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Many communities are responding to the crisis with prosocial behaviour, as neighbours organise for mutual support to help the vulnerable. However, many groups may remain overlooked, such as undocumented migrants, the linguistically disadvantaged, low-income families and gig-economy workers. This study will seek to understand factors that promote or inhibit social cooperation, that mobilise or discourage action in support of others, and that build or undermine the potential for positive relationships between different groups in society. Understanding the social and psychological processes in responses to the pandemic will support policy to build resilience as the crisis proceeds and recedes.

The research has three interconnected components: a longitudinal six-wave survey in three regions of Britain; longitudinal four-wave surveys in five local authority areas, and with community activists in hyperlocal communities; and a deep-dive qualitative exploration of cohesion in the local authority areas and among community activists. Data collection will take place from May 2020 to October-November 2020.

The longitudinal six-wave survey involves respondent panels based in Scotland, Wales and Kent, with representative samples based on gender ratio, age distribution, area of residence and education. Using six repeated surveys at one-month intervals will enable the researchers to investigate changes in societal connectedness, schism, political trust, identification, cross-group contact, political activism and well-being, all of which were measured before the COVID-19 outbreak. As well as understanding changes within and between regions, the researchers will be able to explore other differences such as rural versus urban environments.

Longitudinal four-wave surveys will be carried out with 200 respondents from five local areas that have been supported by the MHCLG Integrated Communities Strategy and Action Plan. The researchers will examine whether these areas demonstrate greater resilience to cope with COVID-19 and a lesser tendency towards social fragmentation, compared with each other and with the average situation in Scotland, Wales and Kent. To understand the evolving features of community activism, the researchers will recruit 1000 activists, many of whom are engaged in coordinating pandemic responses at a local level.

The third component will complement the quantitative evidence through intensive qualitative deep dives in hyperlocal areas. The researchers will recruit online focus groups from each of the three regions and the five local authority areas, which will be diverse in terms of age and gender and representative of ethnicity and socio-economic status. Another five focus groups will combine individuals from the sample of hyperlocal community activists, revealing differences and commonalities in experience. One-to-one interviews will be held with key community activists to create case studies.

Belong – the Cohesion and Integration Network will be working with the project throughout to support the research, policy engagement and dissemination of findings. The findings from this research will be shared with a wide range of audiences, including local and national government, to inform policy and practice on intergroup relations and integration.

Team


  • Prof Dominic Abrams
    University of Kent
  • Jo Broadwood
    Belong – the Cohesion and Integration Network
  • Dr Fanny Lalot
    University of Kent
  • Isobel Platts-Dunn
    Belong – the Cohesion and Integration Network

  • Alex Beer
    Senior Consultant, Welfare
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

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