Information and Overview
28 February, 2023: In keeping with the overall theme, a central focus during our first session was to enable all participants to start building relationships with each other whilst creatively exploring the theme. Drawing on the analogy that cultivating relationships is like enabling a thousand flowers to bloom, we invited participants in small groups to draw a flower, add something unique about each person in the petals and add in the centre something they all had in common. The conversations sparked by this were brilliant and engaging, and the results offered a wonderful glimpse of the diversity within the peer learning programme.
Whilst the term ‘relationships’ is commonly used across social care, it is important that we’re clear what we mean by it and how it connects to our values. How we think of human beings – the extent to which we recognise each person’s intrinsic richness and unique potential – plays a big part in how we engage relationally and how we create the conditions in which people can thrive. We therefore invited participants to reflect on the values they were important to them, thus creating this word cloud:
After exploration in small groups, the plenary discussion drew together the following key aspects around living these values in relational practice:
- We need to place our values at the heart of practice and have a shared understanding of what these are and how we enact them,
- We may have similar values but divergent experiences of how these are brought to life in the relationships we build, e.g. we may have very different understandings of what ‘respect’ looks and feels like, hence the importance of engaging in dialogue,
- We need to value relationships as precious in themselves, not instrumentalise or reduce them to a means to an end, and
- These values shine through from the very first moment we engage with someone, no matter how long for.
These conversations led into the introduction of the Relational Universe as a way of conceptualising relationships in the broadest sense, recognising that when it comes to relationships, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The model draws on the power of metaphor to illustrate what we mean by relationship-centred practice. By providing a way of looking at all the relationships that surround a person or family, the Relational Universe widens the focus on both each individual relationship that has significance – for better or worse – and the entirety of the relational constellations in someone’s life. You can find a video of Gabriel introducing the model here.
To explore how the Relational Universe can be applied in practice, we heard from Ralph Rushworth, development worker in Lancashire County Council’s permanence team and a senior sessional worker with NLCBF. Ralph talked about how he had introduced the model across fostering and residential services in Lancashire and why it had resonated with carers.
Following on from his input, we asked each participating organisation to discuss how the Relational Universe can be applied to their particular project theme. Moving forward, we will explore this further when asking each organisation to develop a one-page action plan.