Respond to the global trust crisis: 12 Weeks To Trust now updated

A “global trust crisis, ” a “global implosion of trust” declared the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer in January. The annual global survey found declining trust in government, government leaders, business, media,  NGOs and corporate leadership, which fell in every country studied and hit an all-time low at a measly 37 per cent.

The bottoming-out of trust is a serious risk management and societal issue, but two trends are even more concerning. First is the universality of the decline in trust. In previous years, “informed publics” had more trust in the system than general respondents – not anymore.

The Trust Barometer found that 53% of respondents believe the current overall system has failed them—it is unfair and offers little hope for the future—while only 15% believe it is working, and approximately one-third are uncertain.

Even the elites have a lack of faith in the system, with 48% of the top quartile in income, 49% of the college-educated and a majority of the well-informed (51%) saying the system has failed. – Edelman Trust Barometer

Second, the Trust Barometer identifies the cycle of fear that fuels distrust and the polarization of opinion as people seek out information from peers that validates their existing beliefs. Edelman calls this the “echo chamber.” Leon Festinger called it cognitive dissonance. Whatever you call it, this alarming trend replaces fact with opinion and information with ignorance.

Beyond the usual circles, this barely caused a ripple.  This is stunning.

Trust is a bottom-line, risk management issue. It’s a clarion call for immediate action. So let’s not wring our hands. Let’s take big, bold action to build trust.

This updated series, based on my MA research, draws on marketing, ethics, business strategy and economics literature to provide empirically sound advice on building trust within and between organizations. Find out how formal and informal governance mechanisms can help your organization build trust with employees, between departments, with suppliers, distributors, community partners – anyone.

Distrust is very expensive. It limits opportunities, increases legal, monitoring and communication costs and decreases productivity.  Distrustful environments are more unpleasant to be in since humans are pre-disposed to trust. And, a negative spiral of distrust is extremely difficult to reverse. The costs of distrust are significant personally, organizationally and socially. Leaders urgently need to understand and implement trust-building mechanisms that go way beyond the usual platitudes.

Start by taking a look at the Trust Barometer findings. Dive into 12 Weeks to Trust, and send me your questions. Let’s tackle the trust crisis together.

The 12 Weeks to Trust series


  1. Intro: Respond to the global trust crisis
  2. 15 Facts about Trust: Definition, types and perspectives
  3. 5 reasons trust is key to a successful partnership
  4. 22 Benefits of inter-organizational trust
  5. Ethics: goodwill at the heart of trust
  6. Using formal governance mechanisms to build and maintain trust – Part A:  Hierarchy, monitoring & contracts  and Part B: Transaction Specific Investments
  7. Using informal mechanisms and relational norms to build and maintain trust – Part A: Common norms, values & goals; Part B: Joint planning & problem solving; Part C: Bilateral communication
  8. The role of reputation
  9. Do you trust boundary-spanners or the organization itself?
  10. 12 downsides of trust & Mitigating the downsides of over-trust
  11. Can an organization have solid inter-organizational trust without organizational trust?
  12. Practical applications for leaders


Published by Dominique O'Rourke

Public Affairs professional, City Councillor, MA Leadership graduate, problem solver and lifelong learner.

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