Global Symposium

Global Symposium 2014

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.

Continue exploring the 2014 Symposium

Outcome Statement

I.    Values and Principles

1.     We, the participants of the first dedicated Symposium “Overcoming Social Isolation and Deepening Social Connectedness: Global Innovation and Local Practice” gathered at Toronto, the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, October 1-3, 2014, to work together towards understanding social isolation, to gain insight, and to confirm actions required to support and achieve social connectedness as a key to individual and community well-being.

2.    We, from diverse backgrounds and experiences around the globe, share common values consistent with the goals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and acknowledge the important role of international instruments, noting the first goal for the globe’s shared development agenda remains the eradication of poverty in all forms everywhere.

3.    We share a vision of promoting understanding among peoples, groups, communities, and Nations to lead to actions supporting social connectedness and advancing positive progress in the achievement of shared international goals.


II.    Building Understanding

4.    We gathered with the bold aim to launch a movement of understanding and action based on experience and expertise related to social isolation and building social connectedness.

5.    Our objectives included the sharing of research and the exchange of practical experiences that contribute to the building of an inspired community of practice and a network of individuals and organizations to advance understanding broadly and to act in support of the achievement of social connectedness.

6.    We have affirmed that social isolation includes the experience of profound, sustained loneliness and disconnection and can create significant barriers to socio-economic individual and community well-being.

7.    Social connectedness provides people with a sense of belonging through meaningful and trusting relationships and bonds with those around them. Social connectedness facilitates access to supports and opportunities to achieve improvements that are desired and valued by both individuals and groups. Social connectedness results in tangible assets for communities and nations.

Tracing the Linkages between Poverty and Social Isolation

8.    Poverty exists in multiple dimensions and includes many socio-psychological dimensions that can lead to further deprivations and violence. Social isolation appears as an important cause and effect of poverty disproportionally affecting women, children, particular racial and cultural groups, and persons with disabilities.

Learning from Stories of Community Resilience

9.    Deep learning and understanding is achieved through listening to those directly affected and experiencing social isolation. Peoples and communities directly affected by social isolation must be supported to voice their experience as first steps to build connectedness. Consequently, these voices must be integral to the design of solutions.

Fostering a Sense of Belonging and Reciprocity

10.    Social connectedness results in reciprocal, trusting relationships that facilitate development and other opportunities that enable individuals and groups to achieve improvements that they desire and value in their lives.


III.    Commitments and Next Steps

11.    We will continue the dialogue to build understanding of social isolation as a pervasive challenge affecting diverse communities. We commit to creating safe places for dialogue and providing a voice for those experiencing social isolation as the first step to building connectedness through new on-line resources and dedicated forums.

12.    We support and encourage the development of a solid research base through analysis of the implications of isolation and the tangible outcomes of building social connectedness. We will link research to practice to advance outcomes for advocacy supporting social connectedness.

13.    We will support a community of practice to advance specific actions for both program design and policy development that are shaped by this understanding and directly contribute to deepening social connectedness. These may include fostering and supporting the development of policy and programming that:

a)    encourage an approach recognizing, supporting and utilizing local strengths and respecting local values and practices;

b)    encourage, enable and share behaviours that promote social acceptance and inclusion, including specific conflict-resolution skills;

c)    bring deliberate focus to the needs, interests and realities of children at the centre of our considerations and actions;

d)    utilize art and creativity as a vehicle to engage and motivate diverse communities to foster awareness, understanding and inclusion;

e)    create and provide specific tools and supports for individual and community engagement for addressing complexities and potential internal conflicts.

14.    We commit to sharing and advancing our understanding and our action through our respective communication networks and circles of influence, and by building partnerships with others.

15.    We will share and confirm research and support emerging partnerships to advance the desired outcomes.

16.    We look forward to participating in a network of participants to be formed in 2015 to further this dialogue and to a second Symposium early in 2016 to share advancements and outcomes, and continue building the global movement of understanding of social isolation and action to achieve social connectedness.

Approach and Agenda

The Symposium was organized as a peer learning event, with each participant attending both as a learner and a teacher.

The gathering was designed to maximize participant engagement, to create space for creativity and dialogue, and to enable relationships to form and deepen. To guide our time together, the event organizers integrated a few design elements to contribute to an extraordinary participant experience. Agenda elements included:

  • Hosted Dialogues: The Symposium was being clustered into dialogue around three core theme areas: Tracing the Linkages Between Social Isolation and Poverty, Learning from Stories of Community Resilience, and Fostering a Sense of Belonging and Reciprocity.
  • Insight Groups: Each participant found a home within a small group of 8-10 other participants, called “Insight Groups.” Insight Groups met periodically during the Symposium to check-in, share observations, and exchange ideas about the themes surfacing at the gathering.
  • In Conversation With: Sprinkled throughout the Symposium were “In Conversation With…” sessions where two or three participants spoke from the heart and shared their personal experience of social isolation and connectedness with the larger group.
  • Art and Creativity: An interactive creativity track within the program helped deepen our understanding of isolation and connectedness through the arts. In addition, a special evening event called Moments of Inclusion featured a remarkale youth art exhibit and discussion.
  • Reflection and Nature: We have built in a number of moments during the Symposium for individual and group reflection, to enable participants to appreciate the content both from the head and the heart space. Reflective activities include time in nature, dialogue walks, and guided journaling.

Commitments: At the Symposium, we seek not only to share ideas but also to identify post-meeting actions that individuals and groups can take. The last day of the meeting will focus on actions and commitments.


Symposium Objectives

  • To build an informed and energized community of practice/movement working on social isolation.
  • To share learning and deepen understanding of the causes, experience, and effects of social isolation.
  • To foster inclusion and establish linkages between perspectives and communities.
  • To share and generate insights on the programs, strategies, and policies that can effectively bring about meaningful social connectedness.
  • To discuss and affirm commitment and steps required to overcome social isolation and deepen social connectedness.


Overall Schedule

Tuesday, September 30

  • Evening: Reception and dinner hosted by the Samuel Family Foundation at The Rectory Café on Ward’s Island

Wednesday, October 1 – Evergreen Brickworks

  • Welcome and In-Gathering
  • Framing Remarks
  • Meeting Overview
  • Insight Group Discussion
  • In conversation with…
  • Lunch
  • Core Theme: Tracing Linkages between Social Isolation and Poverty
  • In conversation with…
  • Creativity Session
  • Day 1 Integration
  • Evening: Moments of Inclusion Youth Art and Action, followed by dinner

Thursday, October 2 – Evergreen Brickworks

  • Day 2 Welcome
  • Core Theme: Learning from Stories of Community Resilience
  • In conversation with…
  • Dialogue Walk
  • Lunch
  • In conversation with…
  • Core Theme: Fostering a Sense of Belonging and Reciprocity
  • Guided Journaling & Insight Group Discussion
  • Day 2 Integration
  • Optional Creativity Session
  • Evening: Social Isolation and Connectedness in Toronto and Dinner

Friday, October 3 – Evergreen Brickworks

    • Day 3 Welcome
    • Open Space Session: What is our commitment going forward?
    • Final Insight Group Discussion
    • Integrating Remarks

Symposium Objectives

Over the course of three days participants shared their own experiences and perspectives, exploring three key themes:

  • Tracing Linkages between Social Isolation and Poverty
  • Learning from Stories of Community Resilience
  • Fostering a Sense of Belonging and Reciprocity

Participants came from across spectrums of society, sectors, and the world, including representative from indigenous communities in Canada, the Special Olympics, personnel of programmes being run in developing and developed countries, and academics, government, civil society and business representatives.

Through dialogue and creative sessions, participants started to build a collective understanding of isolation and the actions – local and global – that could be used to build connectedness. This report synthesizes the resulting discussions by looking first at our understanding of isolation, and secondly, at solutions and ways to build social connectedness.

At the end of the symposium, participants committed to undertake post-symposium actions. The last part of this report captures these commitments.

The symposium was more than a gathering of different voices and perspectives. It was the beginning of a movement of understanding and of action for change focused on social connectedness.

We hope that this report will act as a base from which we can build new bridges – bringing our ideas to others.

Download the full report of the 2014 Global Symposium on Overcoming Social Isolation and Deepening Social Connectedness to learn more.

Symposium Partners