Synergos Institute, in partnership with Kim Samuel, and in collaboration with Oxford University’s Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) and the Foundation for Community Development (FDC) in Mozambique, Synergos has embarked on a major initiative regarding isolation and social connectedness for children and youth, particularly within the context of South and Southern Africa.
Chronic isolation – ‘the feeling of being alone at the bottom of a very deep well, with no straightforward way to get out’ – is one of the ‘hidden dimensions’ of poverty. While isolation affects diverse people in every part of the world, the Synergos initiative focuses on children and youth living in poverty in South Africa, and more widely in southern Africa.
The programme works collaboratively to strengthen local resources and traditions of care; to identify and promote effective models for enabling meaningful connections for vulnerable children and youth; to influence practices of those who interact with children in a helping role; and to assess the impact of relevant public policies.
Three strands of research inform the Social Connectedness Programme:
- Under the broader theme Missing dimensions of poverty, the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) is exploring social isolation and its interconnections with poverty. A primary objective is to develop indicators to capture internationally comparable data on social connectedness and isolation, as dimensions of poverty. Field work and other qualitative methods explore people’s lived experiences of isolation and the social conditions that produceisolation.
- The Imbeleko research project of the NMCF and FDC is documenting endogenous approaches to family and community-based care so as to understand the nature and magnitude of isolation among children and to explore endogenous ways of preserving social connectedness. Initially focussed on Mozambique and South Africa, Imbeleko is currently expanding into more Southern African Development Community countries.
- Synergos has conducted its own research on whether and how social isolation is recognised as an issue in research, policy, programming and practice concerning children and youth in South Africa. The research comprises a desktop review, policy analysis, interviews and focus group discussions with key role players. Documented knowledge exchanges and reflection sessions with organisations in Synergos networks also add to the knowledge base.
Alongside research, collaborative engagement with children and youth sector leaders is central to the Social Connectedness Programme, which works with selected organisations to embody social connectedness within their practice and as part of their programme activities.
Through this process, we expect to identify guiding principles for best practice to prevent and overcome chronic isolation among children and youth.
For more information
Contact Synergos South Africa at [email protected]