This article addresses gaps in linking the conceptualization and practice of vertical social cohesion. Through a review of literature, examination of field-based case studies and focused discussions with academics, the article crystalizes the understanding of vertical social cohesion—often restricted to state-society relations—and offers four mutually reinforcing strands of the vertical dimension that are cognizant of the hybridity of state, non-state, formal and informal institutions that exist in most societies. Through a deeper reflection on practice, the article discusses two considerations for strengthening the practice of vertical social cohesion that should start with intentional consideration of the vertical dimension of social cohesion during the intervention design: leveraging governance programming based on its complementarities with social cohesion; and careful blending of interventions that promote horizontal and vertical social cohesion. It argues that, while the focus of community-level social cohesion interventions is often biased towards strengthening horizontal social relations, both the vertical and horizontal dimensions are important in shaping the nature and strength of a society’s cohesiveness. The article contends that social cohesiveness is determined by how vertical and horizontal social cohesion interact and proposes a tool—Social Cohesion’s Four-Quadrants Model—to harmonize and weigh programming choices in order to influence broader, sustainable societal change.

Author Bio(s)

Valarie Vat Kamatsiko joined Catholic Relief Services in March 2017 and serves as Africa Peacebuilding Technical Advisor. With a focus on peacebuilding, social cohesion and conflict-sensitivity, her current role includes technical writing of project proposals, conducting conflict analysis, designing training curricula and capacity building, documenting methodology, tools and field guidance and providing technical assistance to CRS Country Programs across Africa. Vat was a research fellow at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame from March to April 2019. She has over 20 years of field-based experience in humanitarian and development work, with 16 years in peacebuilding and conflict-sensitivity having been Regional Peacebuilding Advisor for World Vision International covering the East and Horn of Africa. With World Vision, she led the regional peacebuilding field-based learning hub located in Rwanda, where she developed and field-tested programming models and approaches, disseminated learnings and promising practice, supported replication and collaborated with universities to strengthen the link between theory and practice. As an advisor, trainer and practitioner, she has applied a wide range of methods and approaches. She holds a Professional Doctorate in Leadership Development, an MA in Economics, and has had several trainings in peacebuilding. Her doctoral research on Civil Society Organisations, Africa’s Great Lakes Region and Attempts at Regional Peacebuilding is published in the Journal of Civil Society (2017). Vat’s other publications include book chapters and peer reviewed articles in the Journal of Peacebuilding and Development. She is home-based in Kampala, Uganda.


Vertical Social Cohesion, Catholic Relief Services, Horizontal Social Cohesion, Social Cohesion, Binding Bonding and Bridging (3Bs) Methodology, Social Cohesion's Four-Quadrants Model







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