RELATIONSHIPS ARE BETTER THAN TRANSACTIONS

Our Better Way proposition:

Deep value is generated through relationships between people and the commitments people make to each other. We find this first and foremost in families, communities and neighbourhoods. Moreover, public agencies, charities and businesses achieve most when they move away from command and control by the few and stimulate the resourcefulness of the many.

Insights about our proposition...

Modern scientists increasingly recognise that human beings are hard wired to connect with others but some social scientists believe that so-called human capital has been declining and there is evidence that it is lower in relatively deprived communities in the UK.  There is for example an epidemic of loneliness affecting older people.  Good relationships are particularly important for people facing complex difficulties, are valued in interactions with services by the public and there is also evidence that they are good for staff.  More widely, there is evidence that they improve service outcomes in some areas.  Relationships between service professionals and sectors also matter. "Resourceful communities," where relationships between organisations and individuals are strong, bring wider social benefits.  To read more ...

There are many barriers to change and ways to address them.  In the delivery of services, there can be a tension between the wish to form strong relationships and other pressures, including the need to ration services, sometimes to challenge the lifestyles of those served and to work within constrained resources.  The development of strong relationships can also be perceived as unprofessional.  Lack of good measurement is also a barrier to change: current management practices and service contracts tend to focus on quantitative measures.  

Some types of planning systems and working practices are more conducive to developing effective relationships than others. Community Links'  Deep Value found that relationships thrive under particular circumstances, including front line autonomy for staff; continuity in the relationships between client and professionals and time to develop these;  effective training for staff; and, where possible, a separation of the role of the public servant as policing access to the system, and their role in supporting the client to navigate it.  

There is some evidence to suggest that voluntary sector services, even where operating under contract with the state, are better able to develop relationships of trust for this reason, including where they use volunteers who have experienced similar issues.  

Within communities, social connections and relationships can be strengthened by creating opportunities and spaces for people to meet, share and provide mutual support, according to another Community Links report.

To read more...

According to Community Links, good relationships are marked by understanding, collaboration, commitment, communication between all parties - and empowerment and time.  Policy makers and others have been for some time talking of "relational services" or the "relational state",  "personalisation""co-production" or "person-centred care" but these terms are often about involving individuals in helping to tailor services better to their needs and are not necessarily the same as putting  the quality of relationships at their heart.  To read more....

There are some good examples of this principle in practice, including internationally.  To read more...

We want to generate more insights and examples about our propositions. Do please get in touch with any thoughts or additions. 

What Better Way members say

David Robinson in his blog, Love, Trust and the Teachable Moment, argues that "love should be the guiding principle at the heart of public life, public services and public discourse even if articulating the idea and acting on it is potentially awkward, sensitive and complex."  Steve Wyler points to the value of volunteers who have experienced the same problem as those helped, writing in his blog Enabling People to Take More Control over their Lives.  This blog by David Robinson argues that nurturing relationships is the test of a shared society and points to some examples.

Shaking things up a bit: some discussion points for A Better Way

  • How can we define and measure quality of relationships in ways that encourage and reward best practice?
  • How can staff best be given more autonomy to develop good relationships, whilst also ensuring necessary safeguards and value for money?
  • Love is an important dimension of strong relationships but how can you train staff to exercise it and to do so in an appropriate and professional way?
  • How can we ensure equity in relationship based services, given that some people find it easier to establish good relationships than others?

Do you have views on these questions – or are there other questions we should be asking?