Understanding the Trust Building Process at the Community Level

Understanding the Trust Building Process at the Community Level

April 24, 2023

The Chandler Foundation and IREX called on social investors to “be brave with society’s risk capital” and boldly invest in building trust during a salon-style discussion entitled Building Trust Equity: Understanding the Trust Building Process at the Community Level.

The conversation, featuring leaders from Weave: The Social Fabric Project, Search for Common Ground, and Mercy Corps, focused on what social investors and non-profit organizations can do to integrate trust-building into their work to achieve progress.

“We know that progress happens at the speed of trust,” said host Maura Donlan, Director of Advocacy and Effective Social Investing for the Chandler Foundation.  

The discussion, hosted by the Chandler Foundation and IREX, included detailed examples of how organizations are successfully embedding trust in their work.

For example, Shamil Idriss of Search for Common Ground shared the innovative work his organization has done in northern Kenya. “When Al-Shabab began its attacks in Northern Kenya, the first casualty was trust,” recalled Idriss. Communities became distrustful of outsiders and the authorities became distrustful of communities in the area.  

Because the jihadist militant group was entering Northern Kenya at night posing as night fisherman, the authorities initially banned night fishing. That destroyed the local economy immediately, said Idriss, made the Kenyan fishing community more economically desperate, and the call of extremism more attractive. His organization encouraged avoiding such adversarial approaches.  

A starting point, said Idriss, was recognizing that the growing influence of militant groups trapped not only communities but also the police. So, the first step, said Idriss, was supporting both groups to work together to find solutions. In this case, they created an identity card for night fishing. Only verified community members with such cards could fish at night, allowing the police to easily check identities and preventing Al-Shabab from infiltrating the area.

Idriss, along with Swathi Massar of Mercy Corps, and Frederick J. Riley of Weave: The Social Fabric Project, also shared tips for social investors interested in investing in trust. They include:

  • Work with communities most proximate to the problem you are trying to solve and ensure they have ownership.
  • Look for community leaders who are widely trusted. They are assets who can be supported to build trust and support change.
  • Dialogue alone is insufficient to build trust. Trust is built through honest collaboration.

For more insights and lessons from these global leaders, moderator IREX CEO Kristin M. Lord, and other participants watch the full, hour-long discussion below. And, explore additional resources on building trust: