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What people really need is love, intimacy, purpose, friendship, hope

Connecting for Good Cov's Mel Smith travelled up to Newcastle at the end of last month to speak about communities at a national event at Northumbria University by The Relationships Project.

Exploring the how, what and why of what is called Relationship Centred Practice, the event was an opportunity to take our city's movement against isolation up north and share how we are building a relational system with a wider audience of social movements, community groups, charities, think tanks, services and people in positions of power.

The view over rooftops from a hotel balcony of Newcastle's skyline including the Cathedral spire. The sky is orange, yellow and blue.
Sunrise over Newcastle by Mel.

What nourishes us on this journey to emerge a new form of social infrastructure in Coventry?

It was successful day building on what we know and making new connections. Here we share an extract from Mel's 'meet the panel' interview ahead of the November event to help you learn more.

A covered walkway at a university with illuminated signs hanging saying phrases like Be Social and Good Vibes Only.
A covered walkway outside Northumbria University Students' Union.

Can you tell us a bit about Grapevine and why relationships are so important to your work?

Relationships are a precious resource. From the individual through to communities and into the boardroom, Grapevine believes that by being more human and bringing your whole self enables us to work together better. The social challenges we face can be difficult to overcome if we have too many of the wrong kind of relationships and not enough of the right kinds, or perhaps we don’t have any at all - ‘I had a friend once but I don’t have one now.’ And our strategic relationships for change can be a powerful way of unlocking potential leadership and the willingness to act.

How do you centre relationships in your work? Can you give us some examples?

1:1s as an organising practice - belief in relationships and the power they can bring to turn the resources that we have (our people), our gifts and our leadership qualities to create change in our neighbourhoods, communities and systems.

Social Supper intentionally brings together system partners to eat, share and connect.

Working with local people to create platforms and regular gatherings that allow moments to connect in a meaningful way around the causes of, and action against, isolation.

What makes it hard to prioritise relationships in the work that you do?

Some folks think it’s just that ‘fluffy’ stuff. Time, cultures, deadline pressures, power imbalances and a lack of buy in from those in positional power, working within structures and being task focused we end up behaving more like a machine rather than a set of people

What helps and sustains your relationship-centred practice?

Modelling good practice and weaving relationship building tactics into our work - from emails to event planning to shifting power in the boardroom. We are committed. We have dogged determination.

Would you like some further reading?

Click this link for Grapevine CEO Clare Wightman's story 'The gift through the fence' for the Relationships Project in 2019.

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