An Investigation of Online and Offline Community Tension and Cohesion Monitoring Techniques: Towards a Blended Approach

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Social Sciences


This project aims to:
(a) Evaluate the utility of social media communications for tension and cohesion monitoring within local communities, and
(b) Evaluate the role of positive social media narratives in curtailing spikes in negative narratives in the aftermath of an event.

The objectives of the project are:
1) To identify a series of events in Wales around which on and offline tension and cohesion monitoring can be deployed;
2) To use social media monitoring techniques to gather information on tension and cohesion around these events (recording both negative narratives, and the positive narratives that tend to occur in the aftermath of events);
3) To compare the data generated from social media with conventional terrestrial tension and cohesion monitoring outcomes;
4) To analyse the dynamics of positive social media narratives in the aftermath of an event, and the impact this has on type and duration of the spike in negative social media narratives
5) To interview members of the local community, police, local government and third sector organisations to gather perceptions of both on and offline tension and cohesion monitoring outcomes.
6) To develop a Community Tension and Cohesion Monitoring Dashboard for use by community cohesion teams and coordinators.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2111839 Studentship ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2022 Ben Foster Foster
Description I am currently progressing through my thesis, and have therefore have not collected all data, meaning all key findings have not yet been identified. However, data collection and analysis has been carried out for the first empirical chapter. The chapter examines the network responsible for 'Community Cohesion Delivery' in Wales. This includes 6 main stakeholder groups: Cohesion Coordinators, Cohesion Officers, Academics, Community Groups, The Police and The Welsh Government. The analysis collected data relating to perceptions of quality and quantity of cooperation between each of the six main groups using multi-dimensional scaling (MDS). The findings indicate that Academics and Community Groups are outliers within the network. However, the Police and Cohesion Officers operate as a 'gateway' for the Community Groups to enter the network through. Other results in the chapter show differences in perceptions of quality and quantity of cooperation between the remaining stakeholder groups. The analysis ultimately maps out the stakeholders on a 'cooperation space', giving an easy to understand visual representation of how the stakeholders cooperate with one another in the network. The information was subsequently fed into the 'Hate Crime Criminal Justice Board' in the Welsh Government.
Exploitation Route Further network analyses of the Cohesion Delivery Network in Wales (this was the first ever study on the network).

A like for like study in several years time. Many of the roles in the network (e.g. Cohesion Officers) have only been established in recent years. A like for like study in the future would be interesting to see how the network has changed once more established.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy

Description I currently sit on the 'Hate Crime Criminal Justice Board' and sometimes attend the regional 'Community Cohesion Coordinator' meetings. During these meetings I have tabled items on the agendas to discuss some of my initial findings. The findings have given way to open discussion about changes to the 'Cohesion Delivery Network' and how it operates. I have likewise helped give feedback and bug tested a new software being developed in partnership with Cardiff University. A variation of this software is being used in my second empirical chapter (data collection currently occurring). The software gives live analysis of social media (Twitter) usage and monitors online tensions that could escalate into offline activity.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

Description Discussion in Hate Crime Criminal Justice Board
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact My findings showed Academics and Community Groups were outliers in the Cohesion Delivery Networks. These were discussed in a Hate Crime Criminal Justice Board meeting, resulting in ideas being discussed at to how further integrate the two outliers into the network.
Title COSMOS data analysis software 
Description This is a software developed with Cardiff University, used to directly collect and analyse twitter data. The analysis can b e carried out on any scale. My role in its development included bug-testing and reporting of issues on both Mac and Windows computers. 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact A variation of the COSMOS software is being developed currently for Welsh Government usage. The official system has not yet been released, the impacts therefore can not yet be me3asured. I sit on a a board that meets periodically to discuss with potential users and developers factors that must be changed and included for the final software. 
Description EYST Wales and Race Alliance Wales present 'United We Stand' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact A multitude of different organisations met in the pierhead building (Cardiff) to attend a series of presentations. During intervals all attendees were encouraged to have round table discussions. This was a helpful exercise to network with Cohesion Delivery Network stakeholders and to also discuss the purpose and desired outcomes of my research. Some initial findings were mentioned in the context of the roundtable discussion. Organisations involved in the discussions included; the police, charities, public individuals and community groups.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
Description Interfaith Event Newport (riverside) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The event showcased regional and local community groups, and the work they carry out to counteract community tensions and hate. The event was useful for me to get face to face informal conversations with such community groups and to understand the challenges they face. This subsequently helped define my later research questions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019