Institute on Healthcare Systems

Relational Society Project

RCRC Relational Society ProjectJody Hoffer Gittell, Co-PI
Shyamal Sharma, Co-PI
The Heller School, Brandeis University

About the Project

The Relational Society Project is a research and innovation incubator for seeking practical and sustainable relational solutions to address the serious crises of our times that permeate geopolitical boundaries and ultimately affect us all around the globe.  We conceptualize Relational Society as a state of generalized reciprocity and robust social capital, created through goodwill, empathetic fellowship, and virtuous social interactions among individuals and stakeholders in a community as parts of a whole.   

We ​humans ​​evolved as an empathic species. Early in our evolution, as hunter-gatherers, we learned to value empathy and interdependence as crucial to our survival as a species, providing an impetus for creating a social order embedded in solidarity and recognition of our shared destiny.         ​

We now live in a highly interconnected world – evolutionarily, socially, economically, and environmentally. Paradoxically, however, large swaths of humanity around the globe are afflicted by loneliness and social isolation of epidemic proportions, in addition to suffering from deep divisions around race, economic class, religion, and political beliefs. Our shared destiny as a civil society is at grave risk.  

We are however hardwired with an innate capacity for relating with our fellow human beings, for expressing empathy, for building solidarity, for being resilient in crisis. Our hope, therefore, lies within us.  

We need to build a relational society, starting in the communities where we live. We need to repair our damaged relationships and re-build our communities in a far more inclusive way. At the micro level, we need to foster human empathy, at the meso level we need to engage coordinated collective action, and at the macro level we need to build supportive institutions. The RCRC has launched the Relational Society Project, with participating sites in the US, the UK, Denmark, Norway, Nigeria, China and Pakistan to understand how communities solve complex population health challenges through relationships at all three levels.

The Relational Society Framework

Relational Society FrameworkTimeline

Develop Framework & Recruit Sites

Stage 1 Comparative Case Study
(in process)

Stage 2
Identify Promising Interventions

Stage 3
Experimental Study

& Dissemination

May 2019 -
Aug 2020
Fall 2020
- Spring 2021
Summer 2021 - Spring 2022 Summer 2022 - Summer 2023 Summer
- Fall 2023

Study Locations

Relational Society Project site map

Community Site Leads

China - Shanghai

Hao Gong
School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers University, U.S.

Qian Zhang
Center for Industrial Relations and Human Resources, University of Toronto, Canada

Cheng Huang
Center for Health Economics and Management, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China Hospital Development Institute, China

Ye Ju
Hospital Affairs Office, Shanghai General Hospital, China

Denmark - Haderslev

Carsten Hornstrup
Joint Action Analytics

Charlotte Veilskov
Director of Child & Youth Services,
Haderslev Municipality, Denmark

Thomas Vestergaard Andersen
Head of of Child & Youth Services,
Haderslev Municipality, Denmark

Nigeria - Abuja

Olawale Olaleye
Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, U.S.

Farouk Jega
Pathfinder International, Nigeria 

Norway - Oslo

Claus Jebsen
BI Norwegian Business School, Norway

Pakistan - Peshawar

Muhammad Siddique 
Institute of Management Sciences, Pakistan

Saleem Gul 
Institute of Management Sciences, Pakistan

United Kingdom - Maryport, West Cumbria, England

Heba Naim Ali
Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, U.S.

Julie Clayton 
North Cumbria, National Health Service, U.K.

Suzanne Hamilton 
North Cumbria, National Health Service, U.K.

U.S. - Portland, Oregon

Sally Retecki 
CareOregon, U.S.

Erin Fair Taylor 
CareOregon, U.S.

Gloria Coronado
CareOregon, U.S.

Margot Nelle
CareOregon, U.S.

U.S. - Cincinnati, Ohio

Robert Kahn
Cincinnati Children's Hospital, U.S.

Carly Riley
Cincinnati Children's Hospital, U.S.

U.S. - New Orleans, Louisiana

Kenny Cole
Ochsner Health

Megan Morrell
Ochsner Health

“Relational society extends relational coordination to a whole society perspective.”

Shyamal Sharma