Relational thinking

‘Without good relationships and a shared, agreed vision between system partners, achieving positive outcomes for people who use services, their families and carers is significantly compromised’ (CQC 2018 Beyond barriers)

Relational thinking is a way of approaching and understanding human systems through the lens of the relationships within those systems rather than the more familiar lenses of finance and politics. Examples of such systems are societies, education, justice, health and social care, environment, family structures, in fact any ‘system’ we are part of. WSP has for several years undertaken research and development in this area and is home to the conceptualisation, development and measurement of relational value (Rv) in any system, with particular expertise in health and social care.

You can download a copy of our booklet, 'An introduction to relational value (Rv)', here.

We continue to develop the application and concepts of Rv through:

An on-line tool to enable the assessment of R in a particular context or environment. More information can be found here.

The establishment of a Community of Interest - people who have an interest in and understanding of the underpinning knowledge of Rv and how it can be assessed, but who also can offer help and support to enable systems, organisations and teams improve their relational environment. Take a look here.

Although there is a natural focus in Health and Social Care on financial resources, we know that effective care delivery is equally dependent on good working relationships at all levels – between practitioner and patient, professionals, organisations, commissioners and providers.  Ongoing discussion and a focus on ‘compassion’ and ‘trust’ within the health care sector are testament to this, even though at times this is because of a loss of these valuable assets rather than to celebrate them.  The Kings Fund research pointed out how much patients value good relationships in the delivery of healthcare. WSP have been exploring and researching this important area so as to help people or organisations to deliver care and drive forward strategic change by creating effective relationships. In particular, we are seeking to examine the ‘essence’ of relationships within a system, which we describe as relational value (Rv).  This is expressed through consistent and repeated behaviours in line with five relational attributes for that system, which are integrity, respect, fairness, empathy and trust.  For more information click here, and to see how the concept has been developed click here. The journey of discovery has been enhanced by:

  • The research undertaken through our Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Leeds University. For more information click here.
  • A number of ‘sharing events’ in Yorkshire where we were joined by colleagues from a local council, the voluntary sector, independent sector and health and social care organisations; together we have explored the framework for evaluating Rv and developed its application.

If you’d like to join the growing network of people interested in this work or to have a discussion with a member of the WSP team, please contact us via

[Note: Rv is a Trademark owned by WSP. We encourage people to share the approach and adapt it locally under a creative commons © arrangement that requires attribution to WSP and non-commercial use. WSP retains sole ownership of a database containing a library of applications and survey data that can be used for on-going research into this important area.]