About our Project


The Relational Toolkit builds on findings from Dr Deborah Ralls’ international comparative research project, Redefining Education for a Social Solidarity Urban Economy: Becoming Relational. The research took place across case studies in 4 cities (Barcelona, Berlin, New York and Rio de Janeiro), and was funded by The Leverhulme Trust.

In exploring the links between approaches to education and the development of inclusive places and economies, the research found a need to look beyond an intervention approach, and to focus instead on the type of relationships that places and institutions set out to establish between policymakers, professionals, and community members -  including young citizens under the age of 18.

The Relational Toolkit

The Relational Toolkit has been designed to encourage a different way of looking at engagement.

Whilst traditional approaches to engagement tend to favour professionally driven interventions, a relational approach, in contrast, is defined as an organisation and its stakeholders getting things done collectively, doing with rather than doing to.

Rather than beginning with a professional intervention, a relational approach starts by exploring the type of engagement relationships that recognise all community members, including children and young people, as educators and experts in the place where they live.

A relational approach to engagement values and promotes local people as change makers and leaders in the place where they live. It provides a deliberate rejection of a deficit approach to communities and a shift instead to community change as a collaborative endeavour.

Project Partners

Deborah is currently working on a Relational Toolkit project, funded by the Child Health and Wellbeing Network North East and North Cumbria, as part of the drive to support initiatives across the region in the field of children and young people’s health inequalities.

The funding will enable the development of a Relational Engagement Toolkit for staff and children and young people from the Child Health & Wellbeing Network Northeast and North Cumbria and Children Northeast, to pilot the Toolkit through a series of collaborative learning workshops with young service users and professionals and to run a dissemination event.


The Relational Toolkit:

  • improves  knowledge of a relational approach to engagement and how this can be implemented and evaluated in practice.
  • provides an audit and evaluation of current relational engagement activities.
  • enables the audit of engagement practices to be linked to wider city, city region and international inclusive economic strategies and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, in particular the need for greater community participation in democratic decision making.
  • can be used to facilitate the co-production of ‘more relational’ engagement activities across a wider organisation.

If you are interested in discussing how the Toolkit could be used in your oganisation, please contact: