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Reflections on the Global Trust Conference


One of the most profound observations made by Sir Bob Geldof at the Trust Conference last week was that ‘doing what you say’ delivers trust and trust enables prediction. He made the powerful point to conclude his account of how the UK delivered on its charitable and Government aid commitment to Africa (inspired by his remarkable Live Aid achievement).  The UK delivered the needs and expectations of Africa and did so in a benevolent way, another driver of trust. Consequently, he told the conference, ‘Africa’ trusted the ‘UK’.

Incidentally, Sir Bob also reflected on an unexpected benefit in the form of increasing trade from the now expanding African economy.

Valuable Consumer Emotion

Predictability is what turns a single case of satisfaction into trust and makes trust a much more valuable consumer emotion to secure and sustain. Stephen MR Covey told the conference that it was a forceful economic driver and that distrust was the number one risk to the global economy. Bob Geldof also proposed it was the platform on which to start defining the 21st Century (as well as reminding us that we were late to start!). Trust is forward looking and at the conference, Roger Hamilton quoted, “trust links the present to the future”.

Trust removes or mitigates risk – for individuals, businesses and even nation states (as reflected in Sir Bob’s observations about the breakdown of trust that lead to the 1914 -18 war). Risk is personal; we all have a different attitude to risk and it follows that trust is also personal.

Competence, Integrity, Benevolence

Benevolence was also a common feature of the conference. We heard from Paul Dunn who extoled the virtues of business designing in benevolence through giving to good causes. But we also heard from Penny Power and Hollie Delaney who separately talked about two acts of spontaneous kindness; the giving of a bunch of flowers and a packet of throat lozenges. Both were unexpectedly reciprocated in business terms.

At one level, we can define the drivers of trust as competence, integrity and benevolence and these were much quoted at the conference. But at the next level we need to design in the different types of people variously profiled by Myers Briggs, Talent Dynamic and Dario Nardi. Indeed, there is another level; the level of more temporary mood, and emotions, sometimes affected by illness (even a sore throat) or drugs (and alcohol) – prescribed or otherwise.  Parties in a relationship – personal, business or nation state arrive at a transaction defined by these macro and micro influences.  They define the need and expectation of the trustee at that critical moment.

How does the responding partner (and often the more powerful or influential partner) respond to the need and expectation for trustworthiness? Yes, with integrity, benevolence and competence – but in cost benefit or return on investment (ROI) terms, how much of each and in what form?

Optimising Trustworthiness

In terms of ROI there is a further market place consideration. Whilst trust is an innate emotion, the trustee will be forced to compromise based on the choices available and thus, a provider may wish to consider the extent they will go to be the most trustworthy. Incidentally, where a compromise is not acceptable the trustee may just disengage, for example, by not taking out a pension. 

Fundamentally, how do businesses, charities and public services (and Governments) design themselves to deliver this personalisation at the point of delivery? How do they optimise trustworthiness in the market place?

The Consumer Trust Course provided by the University of Liverpool explores Trust, introduces a holistic model, applies an organisational Trust Audit, exposes delegates to a decision making scenario and provides business planning tools and techniques to design in trustworthiness

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