Following on from the localization blog by PLAN, APEA has shared why trust is declining in local communities. Note the learn not give lesson 🙂

Reblog of Asia Pacific Evaluation Association / Rituu Nanda: https://asiapacificeval.org/trust-is-both-a-belief-and-a-bond/

Trust is both a belief and a bond: Why is Trust for outsiders declining in communities? (Insights from 13 countries across four continents)

A group of 16 Participants of the Community Ownership in MEL and Research Group of APEA from Benin, Bangladesh, France, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Nigeria, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tunis, UK came together on 15th March’24 to discuss issues around Trust. (Ahmed, Amol Shaila Suresh, Anita Cheria, Bhuban Bajracharya, Chinenye Mercy Morka, Fiona Cram, Jhank, Lipika Das Gupta, Luc Barrière-Constantin, Maroof, Pakeeza Arif, Randika De Mel, Rituu B Nanda, Sarah Gharbi, Sushila Pandit, Visvalingam Muralithas.)

(This post is compiled by Rituu B Nanda based on the inputs of the discussion)

Trust is a basic need It helps anyone survive, and maintain relationships including with self, immediate family members, society. Trust helps in connecting one with others and just being yourself.

What do we mean by trust?

  • The absence of doubt about other’s intention…
  • Being transparent and acknowledging that we know less about them, and seek to build understanding.
  • Recognizing that our actions may only play a small role in people’s lives and approaching with a sense of modesty and humility.
  •  Standing with the communities, being one of them.
  • Convince the communities about our sincere intentions
  • Trust is about visiting with people

Decline in trust-internal and external

We observe a loss of trust both towards outsiders and within the communities themselves. Communities are losing trust in the system, implementation agencies, evaluation professionals and researchers. Due to longstanding practices followed by outsiders, the younger generation exhibits less trust in them compared to older generations, as their expectations remain unfulfilled. Moreover, trust within communities has eroded not only within groups in communities and neighbourhoods but also amongst family members.

Why is community’s Trust eroding in outsiders?

  • Evaluators’ approach is often perceived as overly theoretical by communities. Community members feel that stakeholders treat them merely as means to achieve their own agenda. Outsiders, driven by predefined targets, tend to impose objectives on communities, exacerbating mistrust.
  • Tribal or indigenous communities prefer  isolation and often resist mainstreaming efforts , feeling unheard and excluded from decision-making processes that affect them.
  • Repeated service delivery projects in communities foster dependency rather than empowerment. Additionally, implementation agencies lack transparency and come with pre-planned projects without involving community in design.
  • The decline in trust is compounded by a sense of fatigue, as projects often address surface-level issues without tackling systemic problems. Consequently, expectations remain unmet, fuelling disillusionment among community members.
  • Communities express frustration with organizations that promise resources but vanish after a few years, leaving behind unfulfilled promises. This perpetuates the erosion of trust in development professionals.
Example from north Sri Lanka: Post-war Reconciliation A range of complex challenges can affect the well-being and social cohesion of residents. The northern part of Sri Lanka has been deeply affected by the decades-long civil conflict, and issues of reconciliation between different ethnic and religious groups remain. Rebuilding trust and fostering dialogue among communities is essential for long-term peace and stability.

How can we restore Trust?

Government authorities, civil society organizations, local communities, and other stakeholders have to prioritize inclusive development, social cohesion, and respect for diversity to build trust:

  • Trust is fragile and rather than imposing external definition, we need to understand how communities define trustthemselves.
  • Mistrust within a community often stems from past episodes, usually rooted in bitter experiences. It is the responsibility of outsiders to delve into these causes and initiate the rebuilding process.
  • Without trust from the community, a project is likely to fail. So, engagement with communities must commence with trust-building.
  • Cultivate competent communities which can address certain issues independently. For example, in rural Nepal, where a small percentage of households face extreme poverty, local government and communities can collaborate to address their needs.
  • Transparency regarding project objectives is paramount. Instead of devising plans and then presenting them to the community, they should be involved in shaping the work plan from the start.
  • “Outsiders need to come to learn, not to give” – We need to be learners ourselves.  If we position ourselves solely as experts, communities may be less inclined to engage with us. Knowledge exchange should flow both ways.  Building trust necessitates authenticity and genuine connections.  To restore trust – we have to be non-judgemental, by being ourselves
  • Consistency is fundamental in trust-building. Move away from short term funding. Long-term engagement demonstrates commitment, gradually fostering trust over time.
Rebuilding Trust-from deficit based to strength-based approach After the Ebola epidemic, Constellation was invited to Guinea and Liberia to rebuild trust  in communities toward government health services. Employing the SALT approach, communities took ownership and initiated dialogue with health officials, thereby strengthening trust and partnership between both stakeholders. https://the-constellation.org/opening-safe-conversations-to-restore-trust-after-ebola/  

Conclusion Participants agreed that trust is fundamental for survival, and therefore, growing mistrust is worrying as the world becomes increasingly fragmented. Trustworthy relationships are crucial for sustaining long-term partnerships and ensuring the effectiveness of evaluations. Through trust, we can foster a safe environment for ourselves and others.

 

31 years of Valuing Voices of national participants, project partners, donors and technical staff. Let’s have sustained impact!

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