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.