The Big Idea: Relationships and relational thinking


why-relationshipsWe believe that relationships are the big issue.

Why Relationships? Because all the good things we want from life depend on relationships: flourishing businesses, quality schooling, safe neighbourhoods, health, friendship and love. Human society is a network of relationships, public and private. If those relationships don’t work then quality of life goes down and organisational performance suffers. It’s in everyone’s interest to make sure that relationships work well.

The Foundation was launched in 1993 with an account of the missing R Factor and has continued to seek ways of creating an environment that sustains rather than undermines relationships. The Relationships Foundation has developed a number of major initiatives showing that a “relational approach” is effective in policy areas as diverse as the family, criminal justice, healthcare, education and unemployment.

Much of our recent work with public policy-makers stems from our early interest in the Wellbeing agenda. At the heart of this has been our development of the idea of the Triple Test. We believe that the social dimension is the elephant in the room when it comes to an integrated approach to public policy. The Relationships Foundation wants to see all policy development, proposals for legislation and government action subject to a triple test – economic, environmental and social.

We also want to see government do more in terms of family policy. In our study of the Penumbra Effect we showed how governments have abandoned intentional policy from a family perspective despite its critical importance to children, the elderly and the vulnerable. We believe this trend can and must be reversed. Almost every area of public policy impacts on the family whether intentionally or otherwise. In order to draw attention to the appalling costs of failing to support family life we developed, and update annually, our Cost of Family Failure Index, now widely quoted by news media and commentators.

We recognise that government cannot legislate better families into existence, but we argue that it can support families across a range of issues such as housing, debt, working time legislation, and social care. And we have argued that there are there broad ways in which policy can enable relationships – through Motivation, Opportunity and Support – encouraging a culture that values relationships, providing the foundations for relationships, strengthening existing relationships and building relationships for the excluded.

Getting relationships right is the key to progress. The influence of policy on relationships must be more intentional, and relational progress measured. In the run-up to the general election in 2010 we made the case for a  Relationships State of the Nation. As we get close to the next general election we are ready to hold up a mirror to society and ask: Do you like what you see, do you like the direction in which we are travelling?