Driving Question: How can community knowledge about strengthening social connectedness be surfaced, supported by government/large NGOs, and incorporated into the practices of those large actors?
A hidden dimension of poverty that greatly affects children who lose parents or live in poverty is the sense of isolation and lack of meaningful social connections. Children’s psychosocial development depends on the number and quality of relationships they have with others, in their families, peer groups and communities. Through their interactions with other people, children learn to speak and think. The quality and kinds of social connections they experience also shape the development of their sense of self and their respectful sense of others. Studies show that social isolation impedes their learning, health and capacity to function successfully as members of society. Widows and elder people can also be vulnerable in this way, and may also experience social isolation as either a cause or as a consequence of poverty.
Meaningful relationships are a foundation for social cohesion. They help children, as well as older people, to value others and to feel valued by them. They enable a sense of belonging to a community that children can trust and care about. Social connectedness also gives them access to the opportunities, services and resources they may need on their journey through different stages of their lives.
Synergos, in partnership with Kim Samuel and a group of national, regional and international partner organizations, is working to overcome isolation and deepen social connectedness for children and youth in Southern Africa. The focus of this effort is research on indigenous knowledge and care systems; education and training for those who most impact children and youth (families, communities, schools, and child care professionals); community-based models to prevent, identify, and address isolation; and informing and influencing public policy impacting this problem. This work is supported by the Samuel Family Foundation.
These efforts have found that communal capital, a focus on mutual well-being livelihoods, and indigenous knowledge and practices can provide a strong foundation for policy and interventions.
- Share Southern African experience
- Share global experience
- Identify common/successful approaches
- Surfacing of traditional/indigenous social connectedness practices in Southern Africa (with visual display)
- Operationalizing social connected practices in large NGO and government programs in Southern Africa
Scaling Up / maximizing Potential and Impact:
- Modelling bottom-up information flow to government/large NGOs on other issues (SC in education or SC in community health)
- Further Improving government/large NGO practice in Southern African and globally
- Surfacing local/indigenous experience and sharing for others in ways that respects and even empowers communities, as opposed to simple “extracting” it from them for the benefit of others.
- Providing guidance to government/large NGOs that is usable within their systems – speaking their language and meeting their needs
- Holistic (multi-dimensional) approach to development increasingly recognized in the SDGs and other government/intergovernmental commitments such as the constitution of South Africa
- Connection between mental/psychological wellbeing and physical wellbeing increasingly recognized in many aspects of life, so time is ripe for development community and governments to incorporate it more fully
Questions for Jam discussion:
- Are there common aspects to local/traditional knowledge in different parts of the world that we should build upon/share more widely?
- How can we (both panel participants/organizations and all participants/members of the global SC movement) better engage government/large NGOs
- What are obstacles to government/large NGO adopting SC practices?
- How can SC work support and benefit from other anti-poverty programs?
- Others identified by participants
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