Do we trust in trust?

Last week we organised a small session as part of our Friends Network on trust, in partnership with Colin Falconer of Inspire ChilliWe had, despite the snow, a great mix of people with different roles (some more back office and some more frontline), from different sectors (refugee support, youth work, homelessness and addiction and volunteering to name just a few), and from different organisational types (funders, consultancies, delivery organisations).

Big trust and little trust

That mix of participants was brought together to explore what trust means for their organisations, using the two ends of trust (or what I think of as big trust and little trust) as a starting point.

Big trust is the macro, societal trust stuff. It’s the thing that Edelman try to track every year, and the kind of social trust that David Halpern talks about when he says that it correlates with a wide range of other outcomes, and which should, for him, be a stronger policy objective.

Little trust is the micro stuff like: does a beneficiary of a social or charitable service trust the person they are working with, and does that help them?

At Renaisi we find that in both – our own services, where we constantly look to build relationships of trust, and in our evaluative work – there is often a correlation between beneficiaries feeling that a service trusts them, and their positive views of that service. Trust matters in building relationships designed to support people.

Colin and I, when bringing together the event, wanted to think about what was in between those two extremes, and how we connect them or foreground trust in our organisations and work more explicitly.

What the fascinating conversation last Tuesday highlighted was not, that there were different views of trust from across the diversity of organisations and roles – quite the opposite – but rather that there was a very wide range of steps in between my initial ‘big’ and ‘little’ trust.

We talked about trust in:

  • Ourselves
  • People/ practitioners
  • Relationships
  • Teams
  • Organisations/ brands
  • Organisations/ back office
  • Institutions/ the state
  • The charitable/ social sector
  • Funding
  • Communities
  • Society

As well as this we talked about the ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ elements of trust – trusting beneficiaries and working to enable them to trust our organisations, but also how to build trust in our teams and with our colleagues, and what that means. These two things are linked, but need different approaches and ways of thinking.

Do we trust, trust?

Colin posed, based on this, an incredibly powerful question: do we trust, trust?

And what would it look like to do that well? Often, we build processes and systems and policies to defend against our worst fears and risks, but these can sometimes feel stifling and reductive. At the same time, you couldn’t run challenging services professionally and well, without many of those safeguards.

We finished our conversation with the question: what would it look like for an organisation to be trust savvy? We collectively accepted that there were significant potential benefits to building trust in our organisations, but we wanted to be thoughtful about how to do it.

As a group, this is our next step. If you’re interested in hearing more or working with us on this, please get in touch. 

John Hitchin
John Hitchin