24 May

Relational Cities for Sustainable Development – 13th September 2017

The theme of sustainability has been interpreted up to this point mainly from the environmental perspective. The primary issues addressed have related to air quality, access to sufficient water, consumption of scarce mineral and other natural resources, level and types of energy use etc.

However, arguably, an even more important aspect of sustainability is the quality of relationships between communities, organisations, households and individuals. Without mutual understanding, commitment and respect, cities can cease to be sustainable due to[1]:

  • Inter-ethnic or inter-racial violence;
  • High levels of crime;
  • Excessive demands on the welfare system;
  • High levels of unemployment;
  • Levels of corruption which sow distrust;
  • Hostility arising from wealth and income differentials.

Thus a city’s sustainability depends on the nurturing of relationships through[2]:

  • Strong commitment to family and community;
  • An education system which develops relational skills;
  • Governance of business and public sector bodies which allows sufficient time for employees to fulfil family and community responsibilities;
  • Faith communities which foster positive value systems;
  • Political arrangements which engage communities.

This day conference will give those joining the Relational Thinking Week in Cambridge a chance to hear from others thinking about these questions and join the conversation about policies which can make cities more relational. The conference will also consider both how organisations within the city and the city as a whole can be assessed in terms of the strength of their relationships.

If you would be able give a 10 minute paper in the one of the sessions, relating to one of the themes in that session, please contact Josh Hemmings at j.hemmings@relationalresearch.org.

Sign up for tickets here

09:00 – 09:30 Session 1 – An Introduction to the Relationally Sustainable City
09:30 – 10:45 Session 2 – Building Relationships Within and Between Households and Communities:

  • Importance of family structure and stability
  • The role of schools
  • Policies to create strong neighbourhood and community relationships
  • Overcoming ethnic and racial tensions
10:45 – 11:15 Coffee
11:15 – 12:30 Session 3 – The Role of Town Planning, Infrastructure and Housing in Building Relationships Within and Between Households and Communities:

  • The role of town and city planning in balancing housing with social amenities (parks, leisure facilities, retail etc.)
  • The case for and against high-rise housing
  • Ensuring that high-ways and rail links facilitate relationships between communities and do not divide them
  • Are relational cities always small cities? How small is “small”?
12:30 – 13:45 Lunch
13:45 – 15:00 Session 4 – The Role of Business, Finance and Politics:

  • Employment creation to involve young people in productive work
  • Local sourcing in supply chains
  • City-based growth and employment strategies
  • The role of local government in developing local business and NFPs
15:00 – 15:30 Tea
15:30 – 16:45 Session 5 – Measuring Relational Sustainability of Cities:

  • What metrics are appropriate?
  • How can relational indicators in different sectors be combined into an overall index?
  • How to compare relational sustainability of one city with another taking account of cultural factors?
16:45 – 17:15 Concluding Comments 

[1] The underlying factors which drive trust and “relational proximity” have been spelt out in Ashcroft et. al., ‘The Relational Lens: Understanding, Managing and Measuring Stakeholder Relationships’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

[2] See Baker (ed.)‘Building a Relational Society: New Priorities for Public Policy’ (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1996).