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Difficult conversations

Cohesive communities have many benefits. Studies suggest that more cohesive areas have lower crime levels, higher levels of good mental health, and – more tentatively – higher levels of employment. Similarly, cohesive workplaces are more productive, have fewer staff absences from sick leave, and are less likely to face litigation from employees. But managing competing interests and resolving conflicting rights can be tricky. Every week throws up a new story of community tensions, conflicting equality claims, or workplace disputes.

Unpacking the causes of these conflicts can be difficult. Uncertain management, personal animosities, media stories, assumptions about resource allocation – all of these can contribute to the creation of a dispute. Pre-empting and resolving conflict therefore requires a range of skills, whether it's being able to explain complex decisions accessibly, understanding people’s legal entitlements, or any number of others.

Central to all this is being able to have difficult conversations: having the courage and confidence to talk to people openly and honestly about their responsibilities and entitlements. Our work in this area aims to equip organisations, leaders, and managers with the demographic intelligence, interpersonal skills, and understanding of rights necessary to pre-empt and resolve conflict, creating more cohesive workplaces and communities.

The problems we’re solving

  • developing new models of equality that allow decisions to be made and explained in terms that do not reinforce division
  • generating data that allows a more sophisticated understanding of different demographies and a more sophisticated understanding of ‘needs’ and entitlements
  • identifying the root causes of social division and the material factors that can act as barriers to cohesion


What we’re doing
brap worked with the Commission on Integration and Cohesion to explore the relationship between cohesion and inequality, in particular exploring whether greater social cohesion actively reduces inequalities. The final report also contained reflections on brap’s own experiences of work undertaken after the Lozells disturbances in Birmingham in 2005 to promote cohesion.

We also worked with the British Humanist Association to review existing demographic, legal, and public policy information to provide a clearer picture of the make-up of different religious identities in the UK today. The final report made substantial and wide-ranging recommendations on how to manage conflicting rights and promote cohesion through service design which we are now working at a strategic level to effect.

Finally, in research commissioned by the Equality and Diversity Forum, brap explored how, why, and to what extent individual rights come into conflict within the spheres of employment and service provision. Taking a practical approach, the report highlighted the many benefits associated with human rights based models of conflict resolution, and brap is now working to promote awareness of this approach to frontline professionals (click here to read our practical guide).

See for yourself



Download iconManagingCompetingEqualityClaims (565.47kB)


Download iconReligionBeliefEqualityStrand (578.66kB)


Download iconCommunityCohesionAndDeprivation (122.42kB)


What other people are saying
Following the riots of August 2011, brap were asked for expert comment from a number of publications, including The Economist and New Start Magazine.