About the Relationships Project

How are we to heal divided communities, to respect difference, trade fairly, care for the displaced, respond to crises, or share the natural world? How are we to live together? 

More than ever, the big questions that we face are all about relationships. Their substance and quality will determine the direction and quality of our lives.

Wider society, meanwhile, has been moving in the wrong direction: we network and transact as never before but being well connected is not the same as connecting well. Meaningful time together has been displaced by fast and shallow connection. 

We value competition, individualism, speed and scale rather than effective relationships, collaboration and the common good. Our organisations have become more remote and less human as these attitudes are wired into every aspect of our lives.

We can do better. Covid and lockdown has shown us all that our health and happiness, as individuals and as communities, is built from the aggregation of our personal relationships. We could build a better society, an equitable economy, effective government, flourishing businesses, successful services, happy, healthy, thriving communities if we put relationships first. 

Strong relationships are not a frilly accessory in a happy neighborhood, a thriving school, an effective health service, a flourishing business, or a strong and cohesive society. They are the making of it all. 

Working towards a world of good relationships, wherever we are and whatever we do, is simple common sense. We want to make it common practice. 

What we’re doing

We believe in the power of relationships, so relationships are at the heart of how we work. We listen, learn and collaborate with others who share our belief in the importance of relationships. We then translate this learning into a shared vision and practical resources, helping everyone, everywhere to nurture good relationships.

Convenings

Creating spaces for connection and shared learning about relationships

Knowledge Bank

Bottling all that we learn about building a world of good relationships 

Toolbox

Translating the learning into practical tools for putting relationships first 

Strengthening the field of relationship-centred practice

Lots of people in lots of different spaces are doing amazing work around building better relationships, but the connections between these nodes are often weak or non-existent. We’re teaming up with others who are passionate about the importance of good relationships to join up the jots and create more than the sum of our parts.

Drawing on our insights from over 100 conversations in 2021 and with the support of the National Lottery Community fund (you can read our application here) we’re focusing our efforts on helping to develop the infrastructure to support a thriving field of relationship-centred practice. This infrastructure will: 

  • Connect people who work in ways that prioritise and promote good relationships by creating opportunities to share, learn and collaborate
  • Grow momentum, energy and funding for relationship-centred practice across the field and beyond, including amongst those who are sceptical of relationship-centred practice

What do we mean by relationship-centred practice?

A relationship-centred approach is characterised by empathetic behaviours such as positive listening, active collaboration, a commitment to continuity, kindness and mutual trust. There is a shared sense of purpose and also of agency – “we can do this together”, capacity for challenge, for holding tensions alongside compassion and forgiveness, a focus on assets rather than deficits and sufficient versatility to adapt the practice to the individual rather than fit the individual to the programme. It is informed by experience, but not scripted. The most effective relational practice is not enforced from without. It is compelled from within, willing and dynamic.

Latest blog: Join our 2 year plan for a 20 year vision 

We’re on a mission to help strengthen and grow the field of relationship-centred practice but this important task needs the help of many hands. In this blog, we outline our plans for the next two years and share 4 invitations to join forces. We’d love you to join us. 

Join the Relationships Collective and help us shepherd this work over the next 18 months

Come along to our upcoming events, the first of which is on 23rd November in Newcastle

Share your vision and know how for a world of good relationships

Help us make an irrefutable case for the value of relationship-centred practice

The case for investing in better relationships

Relationships are essential to all of us, in all walks of life. From schools to GP practices and big businesses to grassroots organisations, everything works better when relationships are nurtured. Find out more about the importance of good relationships through our bank of case studies or our collaborative blog

If you have evidence or anecdotes about the difference that relationships make it your work or life we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch: david@relationshipsproject.org 

The team

We’re a small core team supported by a wonderful network of associates and collaborators.

David Robinson

David is a community worker based in east London. He has been involved in lots of social innovations and has helped to set up several organisations including Shift, Children’s Discovery Centre and Community Links

Read David’s posts on the blog.

david@relationshipsproject.org 

Immy Robinson

Immy (no relation to David!) is an Innovation Lead at Shift and co-lead of the Relationships Project. Outside of work she’s a keen amateur jockey and can often be found hurtling around muddy fields on horseback.

Read Immy’s posts on the blog.

immy@relationshipsproject.org

Iona Lawrence

Iona works across civil society, philanthropy and the private sector building collaborations and partnerships with a focus on unlocking the power of good relationships and stronger, better connected communities. In 2016 Iona set up the Jo Cox Foundation and together with Jo’s family and friends campaigned to appoint the world’s first Minister for Loneliness and the development of the Great Get Together.

Read Iona’s posts on the blog.

iona@relationshipsproject.org 

Neil Denton

Neil believes there is an energy within disagreement and conflict that can be a powerful force for positive change. He helps communities in conflict to find ways to solve real life problems and strengthen human relationships. He is a leader in community mediation and conflict transformation,  an Independent Community Mediator, and a Professor in Practice with the After Disasters Network at Durham University. He is co-author of The Sense of Connection and the Bridge Builder’s Handbook.

Read Neil’s posts on the blog.

neil.denton@durham.ac.uk

The Relationships Collective

The Relationships Collective is a group of 9 servant leaders who together represent just some of the brilliant, enthusiastic, creative and diverse people who are putting relationships first and pioneering a relationship-centred future. From January 2023 – July 2024, The Relationships Collective will be helping to turbocharge our work building and strengthening the field of relationship-centred practice.

Collaborators

We’re hugely grateful to our network of collaborators who have fed in to our thinking at various points in time, and who continue to do so. 

Observatory Contributors

We’re grateful to all those who have shared their insights about the effect of the pandemic on our relationships through The Relationships Observatory and The Lookout

Side by Side members

We’re grateful to all of the wonderful people who took part in Side by Side, sharing their experiences of building strong communities and helping to create The Community Weaver’s Companion

Relational Councils Network

We’re thankful for all of the people who work in and with local authorities who have helped us develop our understanding of what it means to be a relational council 

Contributors to the blog

We’re grateful to everyone who has shared their thoughts, insights and experiences about relationships and relationship-centred practice by contributing to the blog

Get involved

Looking for support to make your place more relationship-centred? Or interested in collaborating with us in some way? We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a line at hello@relationshipsproject.com

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We’re grateful to our funders and partners for their continued support. If you’re interested in supporting the Relationships Project, we’d love to hear from you.