Federation for
Housing and

Making Cities Socially Cohesive

Social cohesion refers to the value derived from strong social networks and close personal bonds within a community. It is the foundation with which cities create social capital; inspiring more prosperous, liveable and economically viable urban conditions.

Members take on Making Cities Socially Cohesive

We asked our members about the agenda ‘Making Cities Socially Cohesive’. Check out their experiences below, explore best practise and join the dialogue.


Gert Urhahn, Chairman IFHP Working Group: Spontaneous City and Co-founder SPcitI

The city is a place for everyone and it should be organized in such a way that nobody is excluded, it should stimulate individuals as well as collectives through meeting place, and appropriate developing processes …Working together on the city brings benefits for all”.


Jesper Ole Jensen, ‎MSc (CivEng), PhD, Senior Researcher at Danish Building Research Institute

Social cohesion enables social sustainability…It empowers individuals within their local networks, meaning people can better manage and support themselves and others, reducing the need or pressure on welfare services. This is one product of good social cohesion in neighborhoods and housing plays an important part of this but you have to pay close attention to the local context and culture. Do we want more bonding, strengthening social networks, or do we need to bridge social capital, linking local competences? Will a mixed neighbourhood help achieve these things? This is a complex question.”


Case examples

1. Pakhuis de Zwijger - Amsterdam Nord

Pakhuis de Zwijger, a former storage warehouse has been rejuvenated into a hub for community and cultural based initiatives, bringing individuals and societal groups together to discuss, challenge and innovate diverse urban themes. Civic driven projects including urban gardening, urban lighting and graphics, sustainable development workshops, cycling talk shows, children’s innovation platforms, circular economy initiatives and urban cooperation lectures are helping develop and match citizen’s local competences with municipal departments, businesses and other urban dwellers. Access to space, materials, experts and entrepreneurial advice is helping form collective values and investment in bottom up processes and products that benefit wider society.


Through such initiatives local, national and international networks are being built, engaging and cohering citizens and societal groups of all backgrounds in urban solution development and knowledge exchange. Located in the former industrial Amsterdam Nord area, this innovative hub is driving the innovative spirit and cosmopolitan character that is synominous with Amsterdam. Most of all however Pakhuis de Zwijger is providing the city with a space to form new relationships and facilitate human interaction; the currency of a more socially cohesive city.


Pakhuis de Zwijger projects

>> Cities in Transition    

>> The Circular City    

>> Across Borders Insights

>> Local Goods Market    

>> City Light    

>> Bike & City


IFHP Working Group

>> The Spontaneous City

2. Integrated Development Plan – Durban, South Africa

Durban, a city divided by apartheid only 20 years ago, is now a leading example of how socially cohesive practices can be incorporated into local policy to help tackle urban problems and improve citizen’s quality of life. With an ethnically diverse population that includes the largest number of Indian migrants outside of India and a demographic of nearly 40% under the age of 19, the city faces many social challenges. 


One part of the solution is the Durban Integrated Development Plan which allocates 5% of the city’s annual budget to ‘soft urbanism’ projects such as library, park and museum development, and public space initiatives that include free outdoor fitness classes.


These initiatives have been recognised not as superficial gestures but as important tools to inspire human interaction, champion unity and develop communal bonds. Through increased place making and local ownership, such actions are working to counteract urban decay, inequality and crime. At the same time such initiatives provide an opportunity for city authorities to build new, constructive partnerships with community leaders, social groups, businesses and individual citizens.


The result, Durban is taking steps to change its collective mind-set; it is striving to integrate and bond the community to form a more tolerant, visibly vibrant and attractive place to live and invest.


IFHP best Socially Cohesive reads


>> R Forrest (2001) - Social Cohesion, Social Capital and the Neighborhood

>> URBACT -  European Programme for Urban Sustainable Development (2008)  Social Cohesion in Neighborhoods across Europe Baseline Study

>> R Van Kempen, G Bolt (2009) - Social Cohesion, Social Mix and Urban Policies in the Netherlands

>> Carjin Beumer (2010) - Social Cohesion in a Sustainable Urban Neighborhood

>> Prof. Dr Jan Vranken - Social Challenges of Cities of Tomorrow

>> Annika Agger, Jesper Ole Jensen (2015) - Area-Based Initiatives – and their work in bonding, bridging and linking social capital