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MAPPING THE FUTURE

Welcoming a new decade of (dis)trust?

04:01 AM February 03, 2020

Distrust is probably one of the strongest forces affecting the world today. As we face tectonic shifts across the globe, driven by increasingly divisive political views and rising income inequality, trust for the most revered institutions is quickly eroding. Surprisingly, pockets of trust can be built even in this atmosphere. This is particularly true in the Philippines, where trust levels for the government and business sectors have been growing.

EON Group’s Philippine Trust Index (PTI) shows that trust in the government has gone up 26 percentage points since 2015, with this current administration seeing higher trust levels than before.

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Alongside this, the PTI also revealed trust in the business sector at its highest since 2017, driven by the one of the most important drivers of trust for Filipinos: the way they treat their employees. However, while Filipinos are seeing that businesses are generally treating their employees better, they are also starting to hold businesses accountable for improving the welfare of underprivileged communities.

Not all Philippine institutions benefited from a rise in trust levels: media has seen a steady decline in the public’s trust since 2011, while NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) saw the sharpest decline and its lowest ratings yet in 2019.

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Media, the institution that serves as the custodian for truth and reliable information, has come under fire as social media echo chambers and subsequent issues on fake news and biased reporting arise. Even more alarmingly, trust in NGOs, the institutions tasked to help uplift the lives of people in need, has seen an all-time low as people increasingly see them as corruptible and driven by a political agenda.

These findings underscore two important points: First, trust is never a static thing—it can be rebuilt and reestablished even by any institution, just as it can be destroyed easily. Second, no institution can rely on its past glories in order to keep people’s trust.

Clearly, in all kinds of environment, we need to put trust-based relationships at the center of our business. Leaders have to realize that people are increasingly asking, “What’s in it for me?” With the pervasive presence of technology and social media in people’s lives, it has become far easier for them to make their own inferences and conclusions.

As Michiko Kakutani wrote in her New York Times article, “The 2010s Were the End of Normal,” social media has accelerated the filter bubble effect further, as algorithms designed to maximize user “engagement” tended to reinforce existing beliefs with customized data. These social media echo chambers have given rise to an ecosystem of alternative facts, sometimes fostering extremism and discrimination. In view of this, it is important for institutions to recognize that they have to get past these hurdles. To slice through these layers of prejudice and alternative facts, institutions have to learn how to build and nurture communities, while helping create and maintain conditions that empower people. In this environment, stakeholder relations is more crucial than ever.

How, then, can institutions properly practice stakeholder relations in order to build and grow their trust currency? It starts with education. This may be a long process, but providing people with the right information and prioritizing accuracy over virality are the most effective ways to build stakeholder engagement.

It also means having processes and systems in place. Institutions must ensure that information undergoes a verification process through the right gatekeepers/experts before sharing them.

Equally important is communicating with empathy. Take time to understand where your audiences are coming from and act on their needs accordingly. Don’t always look at your target audience/stakeholders from your lofty position, but rather, see them from different perspectives.

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Commitment to transparency is critical. Trust and transparency, after all, are two sides of the same coin. Organizations need to learn to be open about their practices, plans and intentions, so that they could guard themselves against accusations of deception.

Let people know that your core values are priceless. You do not exchange them and your institution’s real purpose for profit. Finally, be considerate and open to other opinions. Not everyone will understand you or agree with you, but persist nonetheless and build a genuine community by being kind yet candid, and ready to discuss.Needless to say, these steps call for institutional commitment and discipline, but we have to remember that trust-building is an imperative for any organization to survive. INQ

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