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Hope Amidst Adversity: Gratitude and Reflections on 2021

December 31, 2021

If there’s one theme that emerged from 2021, it’s hope amidst adversity. Young activists in the streets of Glasgow demanded action from leaders at the UN’s global climate summit, driving a shift in the conversation and tangible commitments from business and government. In the face of authoritarianism and intolerance, social movements around the world stood up for democracy and human rights. Amid the continuing uncertainty of the pandemic, communities found creative ways to renew connection.

At the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness (SCSC), we, too, found reasons for hope amidst the adversity. Our Common Threads program—which builds positive narratives around forced migration and welcomes asylum seekers to Montreal through community-building and connections to essential services—adopted a hybrid model with in-person and online activities. 

A Common Threads community gathering

Our 12 Social Connectedness Fellows led transformational, action-oriented research on topics ranging from the empowerment of older persons in support of community mental health to addressing the challenge of urban heat islands to the development of a public health approach to addressing gun violence in Toronto. We launched our Visiting Research Scholar program, deepening the academic study of Social Isolation and Social Connectedness. Also, this year, we officially began our partnership with Fulbright Canada to support the development of Honouring Nations Canada—an Indigenous-led programme that will serve to celebrate and highlight Indigenous leaders and promote opportunities for Indigenous peoples. 2021 has also provided a wealth of opportunities for digital connection, such as the Tamarack Institute’s Reconnect! conference, which I was honoured to attend as a keynote speaker.

The Tamarack Institute’s “Reconnect!” event

On October 23-25, 2022, we at SCSC are hosting our fourth Global Symposium in Toronto—a focal point for the international movement for Social Connectedness, convening scholars, activists, and advocates from across an extraordinarily diverse range of backgrounds. In the new year, we are also inaugurating a new partnership with the Harvard Law School Project on Disability that promises to foster innovative solutions and expand public awareness of disability issues. We are continuing to expand and enrich our research and advocacy work through the Social Connectedness Fellows program and other academic initiatives. 

Community Engagement Initiatives by the 2021 Social Connectedness Fellows

In the fall, my book On Belonging will be published with Abrams Press.  It’s the culmination of years of research, reflection, and action in solidarity with brave human beings addressing Social Isolation and building Social Connectedness. It’s filled with stories and actionable strategies for building belonging in our world.

While 2022 will bring its challenges, I have deep confidence that the year will bring growing creativity, compassion, and resilience.  May the coming year be a positive turning point for humanity.

With gratitude and respect,

Kim Samuel