Upswell Pop-Up #4: All About Trust

Upswell Pop-Up #4: All About Trust

// By Debra Rainey

Trust is a fragile thing. Hard to gain, and harder still to gain back if it is lost. We know from our recent survey on trust in civil society that there is broad trust in the ability of nonprofits to strengthen society – trust we want to hold onto and strengthen even more.

Pop-Up #4 was all about trust – the data behind the nuances of trust in American nonprofit and philanthropic organizations; how trust helped one indomitable woman create a movement that ended a war; how trust is being used to make inroads into the intractable societal challenge of homelessness; and the role of trust in rebuilding our communities and strengthening democracy.

We also were challenged to consider trust as it applies to the impact of racial inequity on the lives of young people, how we can channel our anger and actions through art, the role of trust in loving ourselves and extending that love to others, and trusting how contemplative and embodiment techniques can help us achieve increased equanimity and relaxation.

Why is it important?

Trust is vital to the charitable sector’s ability to fulfill our missions, to create lasting systems of change, and to ensure all people in the U.S. thrive. As the data from the survey showed, the more closely aligned with mission and impact, the more likely people trust nonprofit organizations. Maintaining and strengthening that trust is key to the sustainability and impact of nonprofits as we harness our efforts to endure and recover from COVID-19, and catalyze action to dismantle unjust systems and create a more equitable and just civil society for all people.

Using the Power of Trust to Transform a Nation

Leymah Gbowee, Lynne Twist, Dan Cardinali | Watch here

Making Sense: No matter the challenges that confront us, it takes just one person whose righteous anger becomes the catalyst to build trust and relationships with others who share a common dream to create a movement that results in systemic change and lasting peace.

  • In the midst of war and turmoil, it is still possible to build trust and relationships and work toward resolution.
  • Anger takes the shape of the container you place it in. In moments of pain and rage, the emotion of anger can be channeled to be the necessary fuel to transform humanity and advance peace building.
  • In civil society, “ringing out the sponge” allows people from all sides to release their frustration and anger, feel heard, and then be re-energized in a space that supports the ability to work together to create a more equitable world.


Trust, Civic Revival, and Systemic Change

Eric Liu, Alejandra Y. Castillo | Watch here

Making Sense: There is no doubt that we find ourselves as leaders in this mission-driven sector with the stark reality that we must change. Whether forced on us by a global pandemic still ravaging communities, or because of our renewed commitment to advocacy and civic engagement to address system racism, change is inevitable. And yet, we are doomed to fail if trust is not at the core of our efforts to rebuild our communities and strengthen our democracy.

  • Communities and individuals must hold corporations accountable, so they don’t just use this moment for PR without making the effort toward systemic changes within their organizations. Our work is fundamentally about building a culture of powerful citizenship – in a broader ethical sense – being a member of the body, and contributing to the community. Do stuff together…you will build muscle for the tough times.
  • Being present in times of most trouble helps to build trust.
  • The work for change is iterative; challenge yourself every day; don’t lose hope; don’t give in to cynicism; push yourself and others.
  • Our job right now is in communities with a long sense of a rigged game…we need to ask who decides, and how to change who decides.

Community Solutions Take All of Us

Rosanne Haggerty, Dan Cardinali | Watch here

Making sense: The seemingly insoluble challenge of homelessness haunts our nation, made even more tragic by the impact of COVID-19 and systemic racism. But despite it all, 80 cities and countries around the nation are building trusted networks of people and finding solutions to this complex problem, supported by Community Solutions, an organization that harnesses data and collaboration to help them get it done.

  • Intentions are wonderful, but community solutions take all of us and must be matched to the intensity of the problem.
  • Homelessness is an issue of racial injustice, systems that are broken, and a bellwether for efforts to create equity in communities and not leave anyone behind.
  • In order to understand how to solve the problem of homelessness (or any problem), one must first talk to and understand the experiences of those whose lives are impacted by it, and examine not just what the problem is, but the system that created it, and where to go next to begin to dismantle it.

How Philanthropy Builds Trust with Communities of Color

Mark S. Lewis, Kristina Gawrgy | Watch here

Making Sense: In a recent trust report released by Independent Sector, the American public reported higher levels of trust in nonprofits than philanthropy. The report also highlighted that organizations that work directly with communities and address root causes of issues are more trusted than those who don’t. Poise Foundation, a Black-led, Black-serving foundation in Pittsburgh, has been filling this gap in trust since 1980. Trust is critical to the work they do. They’ve used it to navigate community trust in light of COVID-19, and believe traditional philanthropy can do more in this space.

  • Community foundations are typically trusted less than nonprofits – there’s a disconnect between the people actually being served and the foundations – foundations are typically not on the frontlines engaging with the community.
  • “So often, power thinks it has the answer to make someone else successful without knowing the cultural context.” We need to bring other voices in to the discussion.
  • “If you really want to see change, invite voices from the people you want to help.”
  • “The foundation/nonprofit sector is the only sector where the customer doesn’t make the final decision.”
  • Even with the best intentions you must build trust…you may not get a second chance.
  • Training may be good, but real-life interactions are where learning takes place.
  • Nonprofits with cultural competence or nonprofits that are part of the community help foster trust.

Our belief in private action for public good is at the core of civil society, and truth is the heart of that social contract. Nonprofits’ extraordinary response to meet the needs of communities in the throes of the pandemic, and those who have suffered at the hands of injustice and racism in our country are powerful examples of that.

As we continue to work – individually, organizationally, and collectively – to end injustice and fully recover from the pandemic once it ends – we must not only continue to be mindful of the trust placed in our sector to fulfill our missions. We must lean on the power of trust to forge new and sometimes uncommon collaborations to tear down the walls that separate us, strengthen the ties that bind us, advance solutions that lead to systemic change, and create a more peaceful, just, and equitable world.

1600 900 Debra Rainey
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