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The Relationship-Centred City: Building a better London by building better relationships

Author: Sam Firman, The Relationships Project, Immy Robinson, The Relationships Project

Imagine a London in which relationships were the central operating principle. What would change?

This report is the primary output of a piece of work, funded by Trust for London and undertaken by the Relationships Project, designed to respond to this question. The report aims to:

  1. Make the case for improving relationships in London, putting relationships at the heart of debates about how to improve the city.
  2. Unearth examples of, and ideas for, relationship-centred practice to inspire change in how the city operates.
  3. Develop an approach to help the Mayor of London and others across the city to put relationships at its heart.

The process behind the project includes a co-creation day in which 40 Londoners - social sector workers, government officials, academics, entrepreneurs and more, all with deep experience of living and working in London - to a day of collaborative idea generation at Trust for London. More on its methodology can be found in the report.

The report offers a five step framework for both thinking about and practically working to improve relationships.

  1. Agree the destination - Ask the question: why are you doing this? The benefits of strong relationships are wide-ranging, but nailing down what you want to achieve by investing in relationships helps provide focus. The report identifies some common benefits of the relational approach and includes a bank of case studies.
  2. Know where to start - Ask the question: which relationship should I focus on? In any place, many different relationships exist. Honing in on the ones that matter most in reaching your destination makes the task easier.
  3. Identify priorities - Ask the question: what is a 'good' relationship? Relationships are idiosyncratic and context-dependent. Defining what 'good' looks like for you is an important step.
  4. Spot the breakers - Ask the question: what are the barriers? Lots of things potentially get in the way of developing strong relationships. Understanding what they are is the first step to addressing them.
  5. Find the makers - Ask the question: what are the enablers? There are lots of things to help create the conditions for relationships to flourish. Find the ones that work for you.

Improving relationships in London requires a collective effort. The Mayor should leaf the way in creating the conditions for relationships to flourish, but we all need to play our part in facilitating and maintaining better relationships in the places we live and work.

The Relationship Project calls on the next Mayor of London to:

  • Launch a London Relationships Commission with the remit and resources to develop a deep, ongoing understanding of ways to improve relationships in London and support initiatives leading the way.
  • Commit to relationship-centred manifesto pledges, based on ideas included in this report and other relationship-centred ideas.

To other people across London with the agency to make places more relationship-centred, The Relationships Project invites you to:

  • Use the five step framework, and the ideas in the report, to think about how you can promote and support better relationships in your own places. Even small actions can change people's lives. And, if taken collectively, they can change the life of a city.

09 March 2020

The Relationship-Centred City: Building a better London by building better relationships