Thursday, November 17, 2016

Voters must learn to trust voters again

Image via A-Z

Trust. Given the seismic societal and geopolitical events of the last year I think it's worth reminding ourselves about Trust.

58% of eligible Americans didn't bother voting. Liberal democracies work on the assumption that the voter knows best. This is built on a basic trust. We have faith that the 'other' has our best interests at heart.

As the world has globalised, the question of who should vote on what issues arises. If you take a global perspective why should a nation vote alone on whether or not it leaves (for sake of argument) The European Union. The impact of the decision made by voters goes far beyond the impact on themselves. Do they have the right, within one nation, to vote for things that harm others?
Climate change, accords and fast-growing heavily polluting nations raise similar concerns - as does the free movement of refugees. People moving from difficulty to plenty has been the story of human expansion over the face of the Earth - until we invented passports and border controls.

Democracy it seems can only work if we share a basic beliefs/traditions/outlooks with most other of your fellow voters. When fellow voters are like us we accept the results - and I reiterate, we do so because we assume they have our interests at heart, too.

When those interests are ignored, we don't accept the results. If their experiences are far removed from my own, if they don't understand how I feel and don't care about the things I hold dear then I'm unlikely to accept the result no matter how 'conclusive'.

Is this what we have seen at play in Brexit and in the election of Donald Trump?
Or is there more that binds the people of the UK and the people of the US than divides them?

To move forward both nations must find a place where voter can trust voter again (this is more important than whether we trust politicians, for whom we all have our crap filters set to stun permanently anyway).

I do believe that trust can be rebuilt - I wrote a book (The 10 Principles of Open Business) which lays out how we can do it in brands and business and the principles are equally applicable to our institutions and way of life.

In the main we do share basic beliefs and traditions. If there are differences it is in outlook. Some see the post-globalised, digitised world through fearful eyes. Others with optimism.

If we connect more, share more, enter more transparent discourse, act ,more as what we are - partners in civil society - we can help rebuild trust. In so doing we can enable more people to identify and access the benefits of the connected world so many of us have enjoyed.

If we cannot we will break down (and self-organise ourselves) into the bubbles our Facebook timelines seem intent on generating.

Think for a moment how important trust is in winning this battle, in rebuilding the partnership we aim to have with each other in civil society -
The following are excerpts from The 10 Principles of Open Business.(Palgrave-Macmillan 2014).
"Without trust there can be no relationships of any value. Without relationships there can be no organizations, no customers, no believers, no advocates, no future. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt went as far as to say in his 2009 University of Pennsylvania Commencement Address that: “In a networked world, trust is the most important currency.” Every politician, every newspaper editor, every CEO, every brand manager, every one of us knows it is essential. It is what ties customers to brands, families to each other, organizations and societies together. It is a very human trait and one which has given us an evolutionary advantage defined at its simplest as: “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine.” 
Evidence from neuroscience (e.g., “The Neurobiology of Trust” by Paul J Zak in Scientific American, 2008) suggests we get chemical feel-good rushes to reward us when we trust and are trusted, and that there are large portions of the brain developed specifically to deal with its complexities. Being able to trust our neighbor allowed us to build civilizations. We’ve evolved to demand it. To work closely with people, requires it. Partnership, the paradigm of Open Business, demands it. And when trust diminishes we are in crisis.
Trust,... is a measure of the belief in the honesty, fairness, or benevolence of another party. Build this kind of reciprocal trust and your partners are more likely to forgive your failures of competence; they will cut you slack if they trust that you are trying to do your best for them and being honest when things go wrong.  


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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?