On the 2nd July 2016, Australians were asked to cast their vote for the people they “best trust” to represent them in Canberra. Post analysis showed a large percentage of voters appear disillusioned by the existing system which in their eyes continues to promise many things but often fails to deliver on those expectations. This trend is not new! Community trust of governments and their representatives around the world has been dropping for years and is currently at an all-time low. So why is this erosion of trust in governments, institutions and their representatives so universal?
Fundamentally, trust remains a fickle commodity. As the saying goes:
Trust arrives on Foot but can leave on Horseback!!
As a result, years of toil establishing trust can be lost in a heartbeat by, poor decision making, selfish acts, disrespecting others and in a number of cases with institutions, promising the world but delivering far less. For some, particularly those who feel marginalized within their community, the window of opportunity for establishing trust with a new institution can be small and narrow. Some believe, through their life experiences, it’s safer to circle the wagons and maintain a small inner circle of friends (the trustworthy few) rather than endure the continued let downs from institutions, social systems and the people who represent them.
So should we bother establishing trust with new relationships? Why should we persist establishing new relationships when the pain of broken trust (untrustworthiness) can be so unforgiving?
All individuals are social beings. We require people to justify our existence and give our lives meaning and purpose. People who maintain a low opinion of their world, who consider broader society as generally untrustworthy, often have a lower quality of life, poorer health outcomes and often have reduced life expectancy. Thus levels of trust within an individual remain a strong indicator for health and wellbeing. We need people in our lives and hopefully those relationships can remain trustworthy.
However, to achieve “a better life”, we often need to trust more than our immediate family or friends (our proximal partners). We need to establish trust in our institutions and their representatives that provide everyday services such as; clean water, edible food, reliable energy (electricity, gas, petrol), transport, law enforcement, education, health care and access to finance & employment opportunities. Evidence suggests the greater the circle of trust, the more cohesively we interact with our community. Issues such as social inclusion and social empowerment can only be achieved within a foundation of broader community trust.
One relatively new organization which is currently spreading its wings amongst the disability community across this nation is the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). It’s service delivery will be represented by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), a scheme aiming to provide reasonable and necessary social supports to approximately 460 000 higher needs people with disability. Also under its charter is an aim to improve the lives of approximately 1.2 million people with disabilities who will not receive direct NDIS support plans but should receive benefits through better access to mainstream services, better access to community services and greater assistance for informal supports such as family and friends.
Thus the overall vision of the NDIA/NDIS is to make the lives of every person with a disability more accessible to a community which has:
• greater opportunity,
• better tailored mainstream services and structures that enable
• greater participation at all levels within society
These are massive goals, dare I say aspirations, that are making, in effect, significant promises to the disability community.
Again, this can provide concern!
Is it right for a government organization such as the NDIA, which has a long and complex journey ahead, to again wrap a marginalized group (people with disability) in visions of grandeur and according to some of the preliminary conferences held by the NDIA over the last few years – a dream of a mini-utopia. Is this again the institutional overreach which is promising a lot but may fail in aspects of delivery??
One recent example:
Millions of dollars have already been spent on community Readiness Programs. Programs which essentially explain the rules of access to the NDIA. At the end, people walk away with some knowledge and a direction to fill in an aspirational plan of how to make their lives more liveable within the community. Recently, they also have access to a date, a planned rollout date within each state, discussing when the NDIS will be starting in their region.
However, within this communication bonanza, are people made aware of the potential “time gap” between being ready with an aspirational plan and the receiving of real/personalized services provided through the assistance of an NDIA planner? Some people will wait another, 12-18 months before the NDIA “rolls into” their area. Once it’s “rolled in” what is the timeline between a regional start up and someone hearing the knock of a Local Area Co-ordinator (LAC) on their door and then the return of a funded plan delivering real services of support.
So here again we test a fundamental “matter of trust” – Promises v Real Delivery.
To enhance trust between an individual and an organization, the first essential ingredient is accurate communication – telling it as it is, not what we want to hear!! A major dent in this vehicle called trust would occur if we know the new truck has rolled into town but it’s not coming down my street for another 12 months. What makes it worse (less trustworthy) is when the communiqué says: be patient, we’re coming – but as all good tradesmen, you don’t show up when you said you would. That belated “Sorry” call deflates expectations and aspirations and again erodes trust. The communication is now slow, hesitant and potentially unforgiving.
So let’s change the organizational mindset – let’s try to build or maintain trust.
If the NDIS knows there will be a significant time gap between a regional roll-out and an individualized operational authentic support plan, then it’s time to tell people well before the problem escalates. If they can’t achieve “On Time, Every-time Services”, then forewarn people.
A potential Trust Builder (one that embraces true “Fairness and Respect”):
Under-promise and Over-deliver!!
Let people know to have their pre-plans ready and then as a matter of courtesy, provide the dates that contact will be achieved (a true date not an aspirational date) – even have the courage to provide the worst case scenario if that is likely. Because from personal experience, when an organization or institution makes itself available ahead of schedule, you get a semblance of believing these people care, they are authentic and a potential to embrace a feeling of enhanced trust.
So to all Organizations and Institutions who relate to the public and want to maintain trust:
• Don’t aspire to promise more than can be delivered
• Communicate accurately before a problem occurs
• Make sure the language is accessible
• Take ownership of service issues
• Aim to deliver service outcomes ahead of communicated schedule or as a worse -case scenario, at the time stated.
• Re-communicate change quickly
• Don’t allow, social media or the press to be the deliverer of faults, which are actually facts.