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We only belong if we belong together

December 21, 2023

A Year-End Message by Kim Samuel

I’ve always loved the symbolism of this time of year. In the Northern Hemisphere, where I live, this is the time when we move past the darkest point of winter – when more and more light starts arriving with each day. 

I think we can all agree that humanity is passing through a dark time – a time of social isolation, war, political polarization, inequality, and ecological destruction. 
But there’s reason for hope that brighter days are coming.  

I spent much of 2023 touring around the world for the launch of my book, On Belonging: Finding Connection in an Age of Isolation.  While book tours are typically about an author sharing stories and ideas, this tour was just as much about me learning from others – especially from people on the frontlines of social and ecological struggles in diverse contexts from Canada to South Africa. Again and again, I saw that the message of the book – that every person has the Right to Belong – is no longer a radical idea. It’s a principle that’s animating movements across continents. 
The work of SCSC this year, along with our partner organizations, is a testament to this fact:

  • We received more than 1,200 applications from 20 countries for the seventh cohort of Social Connectedness Fellows. The selected group participated in 13 training and education programs and then went on to support a range of extraordinary efforts and programs around the world. Through their research reports, the fellows documented how people are building belonging as an answer to the abuses of mass incarceration across the United States, how the Misipawistik Cree Nation is reclaiming traditional childbirth support systems to care for new mothers, how self-advocates with intellectual disabilities are rebuilding social safety nets, and how mobile health programs in Malawi are strengthening social bonds in unforeseen ways, among other efforts. 
  • Our team at SCSC also launched unique and creative initiatives this year that affirm this Right to Belong. Our Common Threads program launched Hopes, Homes, Havens – an interactive map that features testimonies from asylum claimants and community workers on their experiences with forced migration. Likewise, Common Threads organized successful community events, including Honouring Culture Through Food events and welcome sessions for new arrivals, bringing together partner organizations, asylum seekers, and community members.
  • The Centre gathered its community of practice for the first sessions of a new webinar series called Co-Creating Connectedness. Our first event focused on sharing best practices for nonprofits and advocacy organizations to build ‘belonging-centric’ partnerships. The second focused on building belonging in the workplace. A diverse range of participants explored how to go beyond the conventional thinking of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging to build deeper levels of connectedness within diverse organizations.
  • This was a year for looking ahead and planning the future of SCSC. Building on six years of work – including a series of global symposia, sponsorship of 87 fellows, and partnerships with 29 organizations – SCSC launched a new strategic planning process to set the stage for future efforts. In the year ahead, the Centre will be announcing new programs and priorities focused on supporting the movement for belonging in a rapidly changing world.

This year’s efforts put SCSC’s values into action. Empowering diverse young leaders, community-building with asylum seekers, skill-building among partner organizations, and new strategies for policy and advocacy demonstrated what it means to build connectedness – in terms of people, place, power, and purpose.
This is the season for gratitude. I feel profound appreciation for the many partner organizations that made our work possible. And I feel gratitude to each member of this movement – for all your work to bring hope to humanity in a time when it’s so needed.
I was walking last week in Bath, England – on one of the darkest days approaching the Winter Solstice – when I saw a dove in flight among the treetops. In the quiet and the fading light, a symbol of grace and peace.  I’ve included the photo here.

I wish you health, happiness, and good service to your community and to our world in this year ahead. And I wish for growing peace and belonging in our world.
I look forward to what we’ll achieve together in 2024.

With Gratitude,

Kim Samuel 
Founder and Chief Belonging Officer 
Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness
LinkedIn | Instagram: @kimsamuel_belonging