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From the Editors

How to improve social cohesion

Woman holding a phone and a keep cup.
AdobeStock.

For 16 years now the Scanlon Foundation has been producing an index of social cohesion in Australia. The most recent figures came out last month and they were the worst ever recorded. Since then, cohesion has continued to fray in the wake of October 7 and the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

What’s going wrong? One factor is the ubiquitous technology that primes us for intolerance. Social media rewards strong positions and self-righteous anger. The smartphones in our pockets claim to increase our connections with “friends” but they are optimised for moral grandstanding. It’s making us lonely and miserable.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Real social cohesion comes from the slow and unglamorous work of listening to people carefully, paying them respect and giving them the benefit of the doubt.

It comes from the sort of morally attentive conversation the philosopher Raimond Gaita so generously creates. It also comes from the work of mission-driven organisations like The Conversation. We see the role of the media as creating a better world, not just a more profitable one.

In our case, collaboration is both the means and the ends of everything we do. Our work is made possible by thousands of thoughtful and generous readers who see the value of reliable information, and who care enough to help us provide it.

My deepest thanks to every academic who gave up something else important to write an article for The Conversation. Sincere thanks also to our passionate and attentive readers, our university partners and philanthropic funders who work so hard to make a positive difference.

Thanks also to the volunteer board members and my colleagues, a team of professionals in editorial, administration and technology, who are smart, passionate, humble and fun.

A very special thanks to the 800 people who became monthly donors in December and the thousands more who supported us throughout the year. If you haven’t donated yet in 2023 and would like to, you still can.

Finally, from everyone here at The Conversation, we wish you a socially cohesive Christmas full of friends, family, reading, reflection and affection.

I’m looking forward to working with you again in 2024 to fight the worst impulses of social media and hopefully play a small part in getting those Scanlon Foundation social cohesion numbers moving in the right direction.

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