Report review: Kinder Communities – the power of everyday relationships

| Helen Sharp

Published by: Carnegie Trust
Author: Zoe Ferguson
Date published: October 2016

I come from a professional world where there are limitations on how we should relate to others which are dictated by boundaries and appropriate behaviours. I sometimes wonder whether we shed half our identities as enter our offices – forgetting we are citizens, mothers, brothers, sons or neighbours. But we probably all know that relationships are everything and maybe this needs to be embraced and nurtured rather than controlled by policies and procedures.

“Talking about kindness in a professional context does not sit comfortably with many of us.”

This report by the Carnegie Trust is one step closer to opening up that debate and although it focuses mostly on the kindness between people at a community level, it also notably highlights the importance of the relationships at the interface with public services. ‘Kinder Communities’ is the start of a process to not only consider the connections within communities but rather the quality of those connections and the impact this has on sustainability and resilience. It sets out an evidence-based rationale, theory of change and introduces the partnerships who will be testing out their approach; the findings are due to be published in Spring next year.

Among other things, it throws up some interesting questions about what we’re currently doing and how we measure it. For instance:

  • We’re developing an increasing understanding about the crucial relationship between community organisations and communities but we have less understanding about the relationships within communities (page 25).
  • It is the organisations that currently define what is successful but kindness and kinder communities exist beyond organisations, so how do we ensure that sustainability is about the strength of the community and not just the organisation (page 26)?
  • Organisations can assume that public trust is bolstered by tight control of risk and procedures but this can work against the development of social trust  so can we create conditions where acting in kindness does not transcend a formal role (page 27)?

This paper is timely; just as we’re getting to grips with the notion that trust and relationships are at the heart of well-being – it may no longer be good enough to rely on the number of connections as an indicator of success but more how the citizen makes sense of those connections. I for one, will be really interested to see the final report next year. And by sharing this research, I am at last permitted to officially use the word ‘kindness’ at work.

“A perceived lack of humanity is impinging on our trust in all these (public and voluntary sector) institutions.”

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