What is social cohesion and why is it important in our society today?
It has been defined as - the degree of social integration and inclusion in communities and our society at large, and the extent to which mutual solidarity finds expression amongst individuals and communities.
· Social inclusion: the process of improving access for individuals and groups to take part in society. It aims to empower the poor and marginalized people to take advantage of rising global opportunities by means of inclusion
· Social capital: these are resources which are results of collaboration amongst people when they work together
· Social mobility: the ability of individuals or groups to move upward or downward in status based on their wealth, occupation, education or other social variables.
This focus on social cohesion by The Sports Trust represents an articulation of all its activities aimed to address the post-apartheid imbalances in sports development. Its main objectives are to contribute towards rebuilding the nation, restoring dignity and growing social tranquillity in mostly under-developed communities.
The Western Cape was an area, which The Trust had identified to be included in this submission, and although cycling as a sporting code was the main event planned by The Trust, the occasion presented itself with an opportunity for more activities to be identified, as part of the social cohesion interventions in these communities.
These communities are faced with various unfortunate and historic challenges such alcoholism, gangsterism, unemployment, teenage pregnancies, drug addiction and dealing, single parent homes to name but a few. Their world and their everyday routines are primarily based around survival and getting through each day.
Instead of hosting only the one cycling event, The Trust introduced more activities on the day which would ensure greater participation, involvement and ownership by the community. The intention was also to provide a blue-print for the community to host similar events, where they can take ownership and manage these themselves. This also involves transfer of skills, expertise and best practices.
Integral to the rational and strategic considerations was the drive to ensure that these social cohesion interventions are not once off occurrences, but sustained within the identified geographical areas.
Herewith some of the reasons why The Sports Trust is involved with social cohesion interventions:
· To leverage the investment by The Sports Trust and its partners effectively to benefit all stakeholders and beneficiaries directly as a result of the identified projects.
· To provide a platform and an opportunity for the community to engage socially and work towards togetherness and unity, by breaking down the social barriers and overcoming the challenges that they are faced with.
· To deliver an event aligned and consistent with The Sports Trusts’ mandate, vision and objectives to bring about positive change in these communities.
· These positive interventions are in the form of multi-purpose-sport courts, training equipment and kit and other infrastructure enhancement programmes, including training and sport development programmes.
· To provide hope, and long term opportunities which were not available previously to these communities.
· To empower communities through skills transfer in order that they can drive their own social cohesion requirements and agendas.
· The two communities in the Western Cape were specifically targeted because of their ongoing social challenges which are crippling the prosperity of these communities
· DeDoorns and
· Mitchell’s Plain
Programme Activities - Event Days
· Food stalls and Exhibitions
· Education and Learning workshops
· Demonstrations (safety, personal health and emergencies)
· Cycling Races
· Rugby matches
· Soccer for various age groups
· Netball between the local schools in the surrounding areas
· Zoomba (aerobics) targeting the public and community in attendance
· Fun Run and Fun Walks ranging between 5-10 kilometres
· The events were not only supported, appreciated and endorsed by the participants and the various partners; the communities’ involvement stood as a major outcome on the days these events took place
· The local and provincial governments, including the sponsors realised the impact and the differences these events made in these areas, which ultimately stimulate the discussions to host similar and related events on an ongoing bases in their regions
· Participation by the community in large numbers from both communities supported the events with visible appreciation and gratitude
· Spectators along the routes for both the cycling and fun run/walk events
· Attendance by district mayors and other senior local government officials
· Hype and interest from the local media which covered the events
· Active and interactive social media presence and support
· The events were also broadcasted on national television on a Sports Channel which is frequented by sporting as well as decision makers
· Local businesses sponsoring prizes and give-aways for the various activities on the day
These two communities as per our case-study; The Sports Trust would like to articulate with these tangible examples of how sport has managed to ensure social cohesion in these areas that need these interventions the most.
It is also clear that sport has the ability to unite, bring people together and emphasise how differences can be overcome when there is a common denominator and objective which resonates with us all universally.
Despite their differences, people are able to relate, engage and advance their social needs by means of sport where other programmes and initiatives fall short. It not only benefits the participants, but the broader community as a vehicle for advanced dialogue, ownership, responsible behaviour and long term sustainability.
All it requires is an engagement platform, infrastructure, belief in their abilities and an articulation of long-term benefits and the commitment and drive by their leadership structures.
The success of these highlighted community events is what triggers The Sports Trust to use this model and apply it to other communities with similar pressing social challenges working towards positive outcomes and enhancing education through sport.
“Morning sir, I want to thanks for the opportunity you give us, everything you do for our teams is a good thing because when you take us to the race or gym is the time we are not involved in the community problems such as Crime and Using drugs. I hope you will not loss the hope to us god must give you power because sir u love people, sports, kids and improvement of people. Thank you very much Mr Mike Tippet”
Olwethu Nodolo from Matthew Goniwe School, Mitchells Plain.