The Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness (SCSC), founded by Kim Samuel, works to catalyze innovative strategies to build connectedness within and between communities. Through interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral partnerships, we conduct research, support programming, convene learning initiatives, and advocate for inclusive policy change. Our approach is grounded in listening, awareness, and solidarity, with the objective of fostering belonging and a shared sense of humanity.
SCSC leads an emerging Movement for Social Connectedness, bringing together a growing, committed community of practice and networks of individuals and organizations that are dedicated to overcoming social isolation and advancing social connectedness. Through understanding and action, based on experience and expertise, the Movement works together to advance research and initiatives aimed at building community and upholding human dignity around the world.
What is Social Isolation/Connectedness?
We recognize that there are multiple definitions of social isolation and connectedness; SCSC works from its own unique basis of these concepts.
“The feeling of sitting alone at the bottom of the well.” – Kim Samuel
Social isolation refers to a lack of connection to people, to place, to purpose, and to power. Social isolation impedes a person from forming meaningful relationships, exercising agency, engaging in authentic expression, feeling a stake in collective outcomes, or realizing a sense of mission as part of the bigger whole.
These barriers can be explicit or implicit, formal or informal, legal or cultural. To understand social isolation, we have to look not only to simple rates of social contact, or even just to the perceived sense of being alone, but also to structural issues like discrimination, racism, ageism, poverty, censorship, the suppression of cultural traditions, and the denial of access to vital social services. In some cases, we’re talking about the obstacles that can impede whole groups of people from experiencing these kinds of connection.
Achieving social connectedness means working towards a society where everyone is valued, seen and heard; where everyone can achieve basic human rights and capabilities; where solidarity, trust and cooperation pave the way for inter and intra community bonds; where people can exercise their agency and have the opportunities to achieve substantive freedoms. In essence, it means building a society where everyone – no matter their age, race, gender, ability, postal code or political party – has the opportunity to belong.
Pillars + Thematic Areas
Social connectedness is grounded in three pillars: respect, recognition and reciprocity. The first pillar, respect, means that new ideas and programs must begin with active listening, where every voice in the community has value. Operating from a foundation of mutual respect helps reinforce the second pillar, recognition. Helping a community uplift itself begins with honouring its worth. Pillar number three is embracing the critical value of reciprocity. Embracing reciprocity leads to solutions and interventions that generate multiple benefits, because they strive not to simply address one sector or one group but rather to reinforce linkages.
SCSC seeks to build these three pillars in the following areas:
- Global health
- Climate action
- Disability rights
- Forced migration
- Older persons’ rights
- Indigenous reconciliation
- Multidimensional poverty
- Architecture and placemaking
In October 2014, The Samuel Family Foundation hosted a Symposium in Toronto on Overcoming Isolation and Deepening Social Connectedness along with convening partners including Synergos, TakingITGlobal, Special Olympics, and other collaborators. This convening launched an Outcome Statement that serves as the founding values, principles, and key pillars of the Movement. Please see our 2014 Symposium page to access our Final Report, Session Videos, and other related materials.
In April 2015, The Samuel Family Foundation hosted a roundtable in New York to further the dialogue and highlight the importance of growing “Pathways to Connectedness”.
In October of 2015, Kim Samuel was asked to provide the prestigious Annual McDonald-Currie lecture at McGill University. McGill University’s Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID) also joined as a partner of the movement and hosted a small convening with core partners for a strategy and visioning session.
In October 2016, the second Global Symposium on Overcoming Isolation and Deepening Social Connectedness was held at McGill, once again bringing together over 150 leading thinkers, activists, and community leaders from around the world.
Among a number of other initiatives and events furthering the Global Movement are Kim Samuel’s fourth-year seminar course on social connectedness at McGill, the Social Connectedness Fellowship Program, launched in 2017, and local events aimed at promoting social connectedness and building community among researchers, organizations, and young people.
Within Canada and internationally, The Samuel Family Foundation actively engages in collaborative partnerships directed toward poverty eradication through community-led models; family support and Unified Sports for people with disabilities; preservation and celebration of culture and the arts; and innovation in medical research, healthcare delivery, environmental sustainability, education and youth empowerment.
TakingITGlobal is one of the world’s leading networks of young people learning about, engaging with, and working towards tackling global challenges. TakingITGlobal empowers youth to understand and act on the world’s greatest challenges.
The Synergos Institute helps solve the complex problems of poverty and inequality by promoting and supporting collaborations among business, government, civil society, and marginalized communities. Synergos creates the conditions for these partnerships to be successful by building trust, designing and implementing change processes, enhancing the effectiveness of bridging leaders and institutions, and sharing our knowledge and experience. Synergos Canada, an affiliate based in Toronto, supports several of Synergos’ leadership and partnership programs around the world, including this symposium.
Special Olympics International is a global movement of people creating a new world of inclusion and community, where every single person is accepted and welcomed, regardless of ability or disability. The organization is helping to make the world a better, healthier and more joyful place – one athlete, one volunteer, one family member at a time.
McGill University is one of Canada’s best-known institutions of higher learning and one of the leading universities in the world. With students coming to McGill from some 150 countries, the student body is the most internationally diverse of any research-intensive university in the country. McGill was founded in 1821 thanks to a generous bequest by James McGill, and since then, has grown from a small college to a bustling university with two campuses, 11 faculties, some 300 programs of study, and 40,000 students.
Data-Driven Lab: Founded and led by Dr. Angel Hsu in 2015, Data-Driven Lab seeks to create solutions to environmental challenges using cutting edge data analytics. The research groups consists of data analysts, policy experts, visual designers and interactive programmers. In December 2018, they launched the Urban Environment and Social Inclusion Index, which leverages high-resolution, large-scale data to analyze the performance of cities at the intersection of environment and social equity.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is one of the world’s leading organizations conducting research and advocacy on human rights. Publishing over 100 reports and briefs per year, HRW has extensive experience in impartial reporting, effective social media use, targeted advocacy and partnership development with local groups. SCSC continues to work with the Disability Rights Division, particularly calling out the social isolation faced by refugees and older people.