Change Moves and the Speed of Trust

Have you ever sat across a meeting table from someone, eyeballing them and trying to figure out who they are and what their angle is before speaking?  Or sent an email only to have it misinterpreted and things go very sideways?  How about the exhaustion of partnerships where you are constantly questioning the motives and behaviours of the people you are working with? 

We recently attended a Collective Impact Train the Trainer event, hosted by our friends at the Tamarack Institute, to do a deep dive into the Collective Impact approach.  Collective Impact (CI) is a framework that supports community change leaders by bringing together stakeholders to engage in cross-sectoral collaboration. This means that Instead of working in silos or working parallel to one another potentially undermining another person’s work or reproducing the same work, we work together to create innovative systems of change that have the capacity to meaningfully support our communities at a large scale.  The ‘how we do it’ is as important as ‘what we do’ – and trust based relationships are key.  Liz Weaver, Co-CEO of the Tamarack Institute, offers some great thoughts on this in her paper ‘Turf, Trust and Collaboration’.  Take a look at it here.

Trust.  It’s kind of a big deal.  It’s also really tough to define – and can mean different things for everyone.  In the context of collaboration and social change, it is vital to working well together over the long term.  Large social change doesn’t happen if people pack up their toys and go home rather than working out the tough spots.  It also doesn’t happen if we don’t trust each other enough to open to the vulnerability of ‘I don’t know’ and committing to nurturing long term relationships.  We can only go as far and as fast as these relationships will take us.  I remember, years ago, setting my first boundaries for personal relationships in the dating world.  I really only had one – ‘no bs and no surprises’.  I now know that it was the best that my late teen self could to do to communicate the conditions I needed to be able to trust someone.  Consistency.  Communication.  Consideration.  Truth telling. Authenticity. Vulnerability.  My own sense of self worth and confidence.  I’ll also openly admit that I’ve had some big trust issues to work through and was often the first to punt and run when things got challenging.  Trust.  Little word. Big deal.  And a lot of work to give and receive.   

As we move forward into the process of strengthening the STOPS to Violence Network, nurturing and stewarding trust based relationships is top of mind for us.  We will soon be heading out to communities to talk about what this looks like – and are looking forward to a lot of rich learning and discussion about ways that we build stronger trust relationships in our work.  In the meantime, ponder this:  What does trust mean to you?  What are the conditions that you need to trust?  We’ll be asking!

Tracy Knutson
Executive Director