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My generation, the millennials, are the least trusting of other people, according to a recent Pew Study on the generation ranging from 18 to 33. We are detached from large social institutions and generally have an aversion to political affiliation. Contrarily, more than any other generation, we’re the social innovation generation. Social entrepreneurship is experiencing a renaissance on college campuses, companies, and the digital world globally and has become the standard for a career that provides a profit and purpose. Yet, 81% of millennials generally don’t trust other people. How do we integrate our deep desire to change the world with our lack of trust of the unknown other?
None of us dare say it out loud, but I would argue that the social entrepreneurial fascination with building “sustainable profit making companies with a social mission” is our shared desire to not rely too heavily on the charity model or the traditional “winner take all” business models we’ve witnessed. We hope that this new wave of justice paired with jobs, profit, and purpose, can help us deal with the lack of faith we have in traditional models. Ironically, many of the communities we seek to serve all experience trust challenges with those who have attempted to do things for their benefit in the past. Those benefits have often not been delivered, which continues to create a low trust relationship between the communities and social impact organizations. We know from research that low trust organizations have greater deception, low employee engagement, fraud, turnover, and bureaucracy. I believe trust is a foundational element in unlocking the transformational change many of us seek.
Social entrepreneurs aren’t saints. In fact, the public relations machine that often touts new social impact startups as panacea for poverty, greed, and corruption is dangerous. It creates expectations that are unrealistic and doomed to fall victim to its own hype. We need to build high trust organizations that set the bar high and create opportunities for growth in spite of shortcomings. If we are truly committed to a world where the global majority are active and vital participants in the economy and make a living wage as all of us live in relationship to the earth, then we must plan and strategize for trust. Here are some principles you can use to build and cultivate trust:
Ask yourself daily: How can I be in more integrity with what I say, do, and feel?
Ask your team: How can we create a more trustworthy organization?
Ask your community:How do we keep and earn your trust?
Acknowledge publicly the reasons why a community shouldn’t trust you and how you hope to overcome this relationship challenge and make it a part of your overall strategy
Acknowledge that trust building work is never done, it is a process embedded at the core of excellent organizations.
Work to enhance the social enterprise ecosystem: Trying to be the only impact organization people trust is selfish and a losing game. It creates a false dichotomy of bad vs. good. If you’re doing great work, help your colleagues reach their goals. A strong ecosystem leads to more impact for all!
Be honestly transparent: Too many social entrepreneurs share vanity transparencies; just enough honesty to appear humble, but not enough that calls out privilege or flaws in their logic model(s). If you’re going to tell the truth: Tell us where your venture falls short in delivering an outcome and what other entity will help you realize the vision.
Create an advocacy plan that addresses the social forces that impact your issue. Trust can be earned by having the courage to write a letter to the editor or speaking to your local representative.
Face problems: If you’re in a community, problems will arise. Create a culture where problems lead to a deeper sense of trust and open dialogue. Turn uncertainty into an opportunity for deeper professional intimacy.
Keep your promises: Try to make promises you can keep. When you break a promise, apologize (in person is always best) and create a plan with all parties involved as soon as possible.
To learn more about Trust:
Watch Secret To Lasting Community Change (Trust)
Watch The Power of Vulnerability
Read The Speed of Trust
Read Tribal Leadership
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