Building Social Cohesion through Education and Empowerment

July 10, 2017
Syrian Youth

Malika Noor Mehta and Stephanie Kuei received support from the Carr Center to travel to Jordan for their Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE), working with the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD) to build social cohesion between Syrian refugee and Jordanian youth.Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, more than half of the country’s population has been forcibly displaced.

Jordan plays a leading role in addressing the refugee crisis, currently hosting as many as 1.5 million registered and unregistered Syrian refugees. About 80% of these refugees live outside camps in Jordanian communities.

Our client, JOHUD, is the largest and oldest non-governmental organization in Jordan. JOHUD has a long history of working directly with refugees in cross-cultural settings to ensure that the displaced people it serves are supported and have access to necessary social services.

We worked at the intersection of JOHUD’s Participation & Rights Department and Social Support Department. These departments focus on child and youth education and empowerment. JOHUD’s definition of education encompasses not only academic schooling, but also psychosocial and vocational support. One of their main priorities is to strengthen social cohesion.

Our PAE had a single overarching research question: How can JOHUD strengthen its educational and youth empowerment programming to build social cohesion between Syrian refugee and Jordanian children and youth?

Extensive research demonstrates a clear link between education and social cohesion. Education contributes to social cohesion as it helps to ensure that children and youth are receiving the necessary support to develop social skills, build strong relationships, and reduce social tension. It helps them acquire the tools needed to become peace-builders, both in Jordan and Syria.

Yet, a tangible and cohesive framework for social cohesion is not readily available.

Through our research, we developed such a framework grounded in four major themes. JOHUD and its partners can now employ this framework to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs in fostering social cohesion:

  1. Commitment to diversity
  2. Willingness and capacity to cooperate
  3. Mutual trust and respect
  4. Ownership of community

This framework to define social cohesion, in addition to our specific programmatic recommendations for JOHUD’s educational initiatives, can help the organization to integrate social programming and high-quality education to encourage diversity, cooperation, and trust.

This will help promote a sense of ownership of community, ultimately building social cohesion between Syrian refugee and Jordanian children and youth.