By Kurt Klein MPP ’16
Although I believe our social cohesion research work is pioneering, fascinating and could be influential in public policy decision making, my days thus far have been mundane. Up to this point, I have primarily been doing four tasks: performing systematic searches to find articles for a social cohesion literature review, synthesizing research articles into written pieces suitable for our publications, translating audio Spanish interviews into English transcriptions, and coding the interviews into data that can be analyzed.
From other jobs and in school, I have plenty of experience with the first three. However, coding is something very new to me. I have never worked on qualitative research previously. Basically, what we do is inspect the interviews and classify which themes are discussed. We identify how do the people interviewed define social cohesion. We observe the context under which their programs were born. We pick out the approaches used to develop the programs. We single out the methods used in the programs’ implementations. We observe how they evaluate the programs’ successes and failures. Lastly, we spot where there are recommendations and opportunities where social cohesion influenced projects can be carried out in the United States.
From there we have data that we can analyze and begin to observe some trends.
Being part of this project and learning qualitative research skills has helped my professional development. I hope that this idea of social cohesion can begin to develop in the United States as well. Maybe one day there will be talks of a social cohesion agenda similar to the European Union.
As I leave, I am excited to get back to school and finish my last year of my Masters. However, I feel as if ten weeks on this topic is only enough to get my feet wet. It isn’t just that there is so much more to research and study, but also there is a great deal of work to be done concerning how social cohesion can be applied. Right now, we are getting into the real interesting moments where we will establish our findings and articulate recommendations for promoting social cohesion in the United States. I understand that my work on some of the more banal tasks was very important. But I am slightly envious of those who will be around in the more interesting moments that are coming in the near future.