On the importance of relationships: A really interesting TED talk by Hilary Cottam

My attention was drawn today to a TED talk given by Hilary Cottam about the current problems social services are experiencing in a context of rapid of social change. Her argument highlights just how significant relationships are for helping to solve some of the deep and complex social problems that we face.

I really recommend having a listen to this talk. She talks very eloquently and passionately but most importantly she highlights how and why current approaches just aren’t working. Her first of three stories, particularly resonated with me and my current research about men living in poverty. At the start of the talk she describes a family in crisis that she has spent some considerable time with and what is striking, is just how similar this families’ narrative is to the families I have been interviewing and to the families whose data I have analysing from previous research. As Hilary points out, these are families who are ‘supported’ by numerous professionals (who themselves are facing almost impossible challenges), yet continue to recognise intergenerational hardship and struggle to break cycles of economic and social deprivation. What Hilary argues is that when a relationship is allowed to grow between the  families and their workers, there may be opportunities for those families to change and to pursue alternative trajectories.


Hilary is the founder and CEO of Participle, which is sadly no longer active. There is a great blog still and some really interesting resources about the concept of Relational Welfare, which refers to the need for a more shared, collective and relational model for the welfare state.


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