The Sense of Connection 

Relationships and strong communities, in crisis and beyond

This is a brittle Britain. Fragile, anxious and uncertain. Past the worst of the pandemic but not over it. Fearing the multiple costs of a hard winter. 

If our country was a good friend we’d say stay still, hold close to those that matter, take time, recall the things that work for you, change the things that don’t.

There’s much we can learn from previous disasters about repairing and strengthening the social fabric. In this report, we draw on the expertise of the After Disasters Network in the crafts of disaster recovery and conflict transformation, and weave this together with all that we’ve learned from our own network about community development.

We take stock of the past two and a half years of Covid and look ahead to a long, hard winter. We share some steps that we might take together as we navigate the road ahead and we invite you to join us in understanding how to support strong and connected communities.

What’s inside?

Looking up

We look back at the pandemic so far and learn from previous disasters

Looking down

We consider the government’s response and the impact it’s had 

Connecting the circles

We explore the potential of weaving together three important approaches 

Next steps

We outline six ways in which we might journey ahead together 

Moving forward, together

We won’t meet the challenges of the next year, let alone of the next generation, with a continued approach to our shared lives that is bureaucratic and codified, defensive, distrusting, fearful, transactional, centralised and impersonal. We must instead focus on nurturing our greatest natural resource: the relationships we have with one another. Here we set out some steps we might take in building strong communities, together. The road ahead will be challenging and the bumps best navigated together. We’d love for you to join us. 

Give it time

The work of community development and bridge building requires patience as well as energy. Join us in thinking about ways of creating space for grief and time to heal 

Hold the hope

For all the pain and grief of Covid we have also had our best days. As weariness takes hold and challenges mount, we must hold onto the hope. Join us in creating memorials of hope  

Bottle the essence

We all know good relationships when we see them, when we feel them. Join us in sharing what it means to prioritise relationships in your place, and the change that it unlocks 

Teach the craft

We can’t rely on our instincts alone to build relationships in a world teeming with difference. We must nurture the skills and practice of relationships. Join us in sharing existing models  

Trust the people

Statutory agencies and governments, can’t make social capital but they can nurture it. We need to create the conditions for relationships to thrive. Join our Councils Practitioner Network

Dare to dream

What we’ve experienced will affect our tomorrows, but the direction we chose to take is in our hands. Join us in learning from other crafts in how to build strong communities 

Other reports in the series

In March 2020, just before lockdown, we established The Relationships Observatory. Whilst none of us knew exactly what to expect at that time, it was already evident that our social behaviour was about to change. The Observatory is a simple mechanism for gathering insights and working to spot, support, embed and sustain the positives. We have been sharing the learning from The Observatory through a series of reports which now include:

The Moment We Noticed

Reporting on our learning from the first 100 days, we identify a set of shifting undercurrents in how we are behaving with one another  

Turning to the Light

Reporting on the first year of the pandemic, we identify areas of light and areas of darkness and call for a hopeful reading of what is to come 

Citizens Rising

Reporting two years on from the start of the pandemic, we share the perspectives and priorities of young people forgotten during the response