How do we connect in a changing world? Retooling to make real relationships the central operating principle


We network and transact more than ever, but meaningful relationships are being systematically undermined and displaced by fast and feeble connections.

Shifts in technological capability, in ideological influences, and in managerial models and protocols have diminished the quality of our lives, reduced our collective capacity and eroded the efficacy of our agencies and services.


Growing relationship centred development with three streams of work:

Open Knowledge Bank – Sharing what we know   on how relational principles work in business, on what delivers deep value in public services and on the community activities that generate enduring relationships.

Open Framework for Relationship Centred Design – Developing a community of practise jointly building and applying the principles of relationship centred design along with instruments for co-designing and matchmaking.

Open Platform – Cultivating first a conduit for information. Next a forum for collaboration. Ultimately a catalyst for growing the field.


VIDEO: The You and Me Principle

October 9, 2018

How relationships change the world and where to go with what we know. Film of lecture by David Robinson


Connecting Well

David Robinson is Shift’s founder and a community worker in east London. He is currently exploring new work on social isolation at the Marshall Institute. This is the first in a series of blogs.


Case Studies

As part of the Relationships Project, we’re collating a series of case studies from a range of sectors and contexts that demonstrate the benefits and workings of relationship-centred design. See below case studies from the private, public and non-profit sectors.

Whilst we hope they help build a case for prioritising deep-value relationships, we recognise that – especially at this early stage – we are still learning. We therefore welcome comments, insights, critiques and ideas for case studies from people and organisations across sectors. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch at

A Nation of New Relationships: Lessons From The Big Lunch and The Great Get Together

The Big Lunch and The Great Get Together show how simple, fun and powerful community relationships can be. Both are excellent examples for anyone looking to learn more about grassroots relationship building, social capital and community organising.

Relevant to: Community Relationships; Community Events; Public Spaces


Amplify NI: A Relationship-Centred, Community-Led Innovation Process for Community Change

We love the way Amplify insists that the best people to solve social issues are those who have experienced them. Its community-led innovation process is founded on collaborative relationships between local people. You should read this case study if you’re interested in what a more collective, relationship-centred approach to social innovation looks like.

Relevant to: Community Relationships, Wellbeing


Appliances Online: Prioritising Customer Relationships to Deliver Fantastic Business Success

AO is a multi-billion pound testament to the value of businesses investing in relationships with their customers. If you’re intrigued by how showing radical trust in customers and staff can improve business outcomes, even when it seems it may backfire, you should read more.

Relevant to: Customer Relationships; Brand Building


Big Picture Learning: Education Built on Students’ Preferences and Relationships

Big Picture Learning’s educational model, originating in the US, jumped out at us for two main reasons. First, it gives students a radical degree of control over their own learning, reframing the fundamental relationship between students and teachers. Second, it draws on existing social relationships to feed into that learning. Big Picture Learning has achieved exciting results that are worth championing, especially with a pilot arriving in Doncaster in 2019.

Relevant to: Education; Young People


COOK: Selling Frozen Food to Thaw Perceptions of Ex-Offenders and Previously Homeless People

We were impressed by how thoroughly COOK has oriented its brand around relationship-building, including its decision to employ ex-offenders and people who have experienced homelessness. Give this case study a read if you’re interested in what a relationship-centred, socially-minded commercial organisation looks like.

Relevant to: Employee Loyalty; Brand Building


Every One Every Day: Creating the World’s First Large-Scale, Fully-Inclusive Participatory Ecosystem

Every One Every Day is an ambitious collaboration between Participatory City and Barking and Dagenham Council, aimed at creating the world’s first “large scale, fully inclusive, practical participatory ecosystem.” Now in its second year, it is aiming to make relationships between people and their neighbours, communities and local government more active and collaborative. This is why we were delighted to write a case study on it.

Relevant to: Community; Innovation; Place-based Initiatives


Frome Model of Enhanced Primary Care (aka Compassionate Frome): Harnessing The Community Cure

The Compassionate Frome Project has helped achieve remarkable, robust improvements in health outcomes, simply by drawing on the power of community. Read more if you’re involved in health, social prescribing or creating resilient communities (or if you simply like a fantastic story).

Relevant to: Health; Wellbeing; Social Prescribing; Community Relationships


GoodGym: Harnessing Exercise for Social Good

We admire the way GoodGym creates powerful relationships in a counter-intuitive way: by pairing runners with older people. This case study will be especially useful if you’re interested in running, social isolation or community volunteering.

Relevant to: Volunteering; Community Relationships; Social Isolation


Grow Well Cardiff: Tending Good Health Through Community Gardening

Grow Well Cardiff is a good example of how social activities can improve health and wellbeing, reducing the pressure on public services. This case study also shows the impact that physical spaces – in this case gardens – can have on this process. Anybody interested in social prescribing, community gardening or building a financial case for investing in relationships should read more.

Relevant to: Health, Wellbeing, Social Prescribing, Community Relationships


Migrateful: Using Cookery Classes to Help Refugees Build Relationships and Settle into London

We like how Migrateful sees refugees as boons, not burdens. This is the foundation of mutual, supportive and impactful relationships helping refugees settle in the UK. Read more about Migrateful if you’re interested in how relationships can empower minority groups.

Relevant to: Refugees; Skills Sharing; Support Networks


Off the Record: Using Strengths-Based Collaborative Relationships to Support Young People to Improve their Mental Health

Bristol’s Off the Record rejects mental-health services that encourage passive, dependent relationships. By co-creating vibrant, creative programmes with young people, it gives them real agency in exploring, understanding and improving their mental health and wellbeing – all whilst focusing on positive relationships.

Relevant to: Mental Health; Young People

The Scottish Men’s Sheds Association: Helping Men Improve Health with Relationships

Men’s Sheds are striking because they create powerful benefits through such a simple idea: providing an accessible, welcoming space for men to socialise, share skills and discuss what’s important. If you’re interested in masculinity, health outcomes, social prescribing or fostering relationships among isolated demographics, this case study on the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association will certainly be of value.

Relevant to: Community Relationships; Wellbeing; Skills Sharing


Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (SVRU): A public-health approach to ending violence

The Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (SVRU) has attracted a lot of attention in recent years for its public-health approach to reducing violence. This approach rests on empathetic community relationships of many types, which it shows can avert enormous social pain and dislocation. The SVRU offers valuable lessons for relationship-centred designers everywhere.

Relevant to: Violence; Policing; Public Sector; Crime


Students and Refugees Together (START): Blending Practical Support and Social Activities to Welcome Refugees

START stands out to us for two reasons: it supports refugees by drawing on what refugees can offer, and it prioritises social activities as a source of wellbeing. If you’re interested in supporting minority groups through relationships despite funding constraints, START is a useful organisation to learn about.

Relevant to: Community Relationships; Students; Wellbeing


Supermarkets and Relationships: Do They Check Out?

Supermarkets are incredibly important social spaces, and this case study highlights a range of initiatives demonstrating the benefits more relational supermarkets might bring. We encourage anybody interested in relationships in a retail environment to read on.

Relevant to: Customer Relationships; Employee loyalty, Brand building


Timpson: Trusting Ex-Offenders to Deliver Social and Business Impact

Timpson struck us as a pioneering organisation in terms of using trust to build loyal, impactful relationships with stigmatised groups – in this case ex-offenders – in a business environment. If you have an interest in challenging stereotypes and cultural norms by building relationships, this case study is for you.

Relevant to: Employee Loyalty; Brand Building


WEvolution: Empowering Women Through Relationship-Driven Self-Reliant Groups

WEvolution supports disadvantaged women to start self-reliant groups (SRGs), which show how powerfully supportive it can be for people with shared experiences – especially those from marginalised groups – to simply gather and talk. But SRGs also provide a foundation for learning skills, starting projects and launching businesses together – all of which bring further benefits.

Relevant to: Self-help; Women’s Empowerment; Finance


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