Mercy Corps believes that engaging adolescents and youth (10-24 years) is critical to addressing the needs of the communities in which they work. Nowhere is this more important than in the Middle East, where youth make up a majority of the region’s population. As a result, youth represent a deeply influential demographic in the Middle East both in the present and for decades to come. Mercy Corps’ programming throughout the Middle East aims to nurture the development pathways of adolescents and youth to ensure that this population has access to the tools, support and experiences necessary to work towards positive change. Mercy Corps engages particularly with youth and adolescents displaced internally or as refugees and with those living in host communities.
This Capstone project is interested in social cohesion – termed within Mercy Corps’ work as “the state of relationships within a community based on the behaviors, attitudes, levels of trust, and collaboration that promote and foster commitment to and cooperation among the overall community.” Social cohesion is critical to the development and empowerment of youth and adolescents in providing the conditions and platform for them to build relationships and to be engaged and influential participants in their communities.
As a result, the ability to properly define and measure the elements of social cohesion, especially as relates to young people’s understanding of the concept throughout the Middle East, is critical to ensuring program responses are designed and implemented in a manner that is responsive to community needs. Testing and comparing Mercy Corps’ current social cohesion definitions and metrics against the perceptions and understanding of social cohesion by young people is the over-arching aim of this Capstone project. The Capstone will adapt Mercy Corps’ institutional understanding of social cohesion by incorporating the notions of social cohesion held by adolescents and youth in the Middle East (particularly Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq). The Capstone will subsequently identify and adapt tools to measure the youth-driven understanding of the concept.