Resilient Communities are the Foundations of a Resilient America.

Building Trust; Building Community Resilience

Charles Murray (in Coming Apart) presents data showing the breakdown of trust, especially in lower class communities. He asks “whether the remaining levels of social trust [in lower class communities] are enough to sustain anything approaching the traditional expectations of American neighborliness and local problem solving.” It is clear that Murray sees trust as an essential component of community resilience – the community’s ability to manage change.

Michael Grant, in commenting on an earlier blog (Bureaucracy and Community Resilience), asked how one can interact with and influence bureaucracies. The answer is simple to state, but hard to do – communicate. If one wants a bureaucracy to move in a certain direction, there has to be communication – where should it go, why should it go, how can it go? This communication has to be with both the bureaucracy and with those who hold it accountable, the leadership. But, again, trust is an essential component of communication. How can we build trust?

Bernd Numberger (http://cocreatr.typepad.com/everyone_is_a_beginner_or/2012/02/community-of-practice-and-trust-building.html) provides some interesting thoughts about how to build (or destroy) trust. With apologies to him, I’ll paraphrase some of them, and add to them:

Trust builders
• Openness. We have to be willing to let others know who we are in a personal sense, what we value and what we believe.
• Sharing. We have to share in conversations – that means we have to listen – really pay attention to what others are saying – as well as speak. We have to show that we respect the opinions of others. We have to show that we value thir opinions as well – perhaps not so much for their content, but certainly for others’ willingness to be open with us.
• “Trusted” opinions. Recommendations from trusted third parties, meaningful awards, or certifications can help build others’ trust in us.
• Collaboration. Actions speak louder than words; working together is perhaps the best way to build trust.
• Shared success and celebrations. Or, as I like to say – never underestimate the power of a party! Celebrating small successes along the way builds trust, and can lead to much greater success.

Trust breakers
• Playing the blame game. Can you ever really trust someone who always blames others when things aren’t going right? Or is always making excuses (Certain politicians come to mind?), and never takes responsibility?
• Shooting from the lip. It’s hard to trust someone who seems to always be jumping to conclusions without checking their facts.
• Sending mixed signals. It’s also hard to trust that a reed that bends to whichever way the wind is blowing will stand firm for you (Certain other politicians come to mind?).
• Not caring about others’ concerns. Would you trust someone to do something that you value if he/she is only concerned about what’s good for him/her?

All of this implies that building trust is a contact sport.  Like any sport, it takes time and effort to do it well. Above all, it requires that each of us is trustworthy. Trust is the glue that binds communities together; thus, trust is essential for community resilience.