Strengthening Democracy Executive Summary


Social Cohesion Compass

The Institute is pleased to bring you the Social Cohesion Compass. This tool was developed through a comprehensive research project on strengthening democracy. The research considered how Australians, the media and politicians talk about democracy and what should inform the design of place-based community programs that aim to foster democratic resilience or social cohesion. This information was then presented through a series of visualisations to support policy makers, community organisers and local governments in their efforts towards creating programs for their targeted cohorts.

You can connect to the Social Cohesion Compass HERE.

Below is a brief outline of each of the individual projects that informed the research. You can read the full report on any one of these projects HERE.

Understanding democracy through segments of the community

This study investigates community discourses around democracy, with the aim of understanding how different segments of the community talk about democracy, levels of support for democracy and how such discussions are framed. Strengthening democracy and fostering democratic resilience necessarily involves examining and shaping narratives as well as targeted policy and program goals. This research contributes to that goal and you can learn more about it HERE.

Understanding discourses around democracy in parliament and news media

How politicians talk about and news media report on Australia’s democracy affects how people think about, feel towards, and engage with democracy in their day-to-day lives. Therefore, understanding discourses around democracy in parliament and news media offers important insights for policymakers wanting to address issues of distrust in government and dissatisfaction with democracy. Learn more about discourses around democracy in Australia’s parliaments and news media HERE.

What works to improve civic and political participation

Participation in civil society and political processes are indicators of a resilient democracy and a socially cohesive society. Although civic and political participation have remained at a high level in Australia over the past two decades, the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the economic, social and political challenges that Australia is facing. Safeguarding and bolstering civic and political participation are essential to identifying and implementing solutions to meet those challenges and ensure that Australia’s democracy remain resilient and its society socially cohesive in the future. Learn about what programs have been implemented in Australia and overseas HERE. You can find more information on the studies and programs we included in the research HERE and on how we identified and selected the studies HERE.

Creating a data tool on democratic resilience

Strengthening democratic resilience and social cohesion relies heavily on the work of local government authorities and community organisations. Democratic resilience can be assessed through individual and group participation in civil society and political processes, in particular, the safeguarding of the opportunities to participate in our democratic institutions.

To inform this work, the project created a practical tool. The Social Cohesion Compass, which is available through three portals enables you to:

  • Obtain comprehensive view of any local government area's (LGAs) demography and social-economic indicators,
  • Compare any LGA on any Scanlon Monash Index domain including Belonging, Worth, Participation, Social Inclusion and Justice and Acceptance and Rejection,
  • See where each LGA in the state is positioned with regard  to the relationship between Political Participation and Income, Education or democratic indicators (using the Democracy Index),
  • Find out what design considerations may need to be incorporated into programs that strengthen social cohesion and democratic resilience,
  • Choose design considerations for different target cohorts.

Learn more about how we created the Social Cohesion Compass HERE and its program considerations HERE.