I am finalizing the points that I will be making during my session on “ICT Partnerships and Civil Society” at the UNESCO WSIS conference I attending now in St Petersburg. I have gone around and around on this, and think that I would like to focus on building confidence of NGOs in partnership arrangements. Here’s a quick run down of what I wil be talking about:
Let me begin discussing trust as an issue. Trust is a feeling, an emotion. When we enter into an ongoing relationship with someone – whether it be a friendship, a business deal, or marriage – we require a certain amount of confidence in the other party to act in expected ways toward us. So when we talk about involving civil society in ICT partnerships, trust is a non-trivial issue.
Who do you trust? You trust people who are like you, who you understand, whose perspectives and motivations are known, who you have interacted with over time, who act in a predictable fashion. It’s difficult to trust people you don’t know, whose motivations and goals are mysterious, who can exert power over you. Trust implies reliability, predictability, shared norms and understandings.
Adam Peake, a member of the DOT Force, comments on trust-building in that partnership:
The DOT Force experience made clear that it takes time to build trust between partners. It was an unusually complex mix of international and cross sector partners, and criteria for the selection of partners were often unclear. It took about three face-to-face meetings for the group to begin to produce good work in a efficient manner. The lesson may be that results cannot be expected immediately. Trust increased the feeling of equality in the process, partners were recognised for what they brought to the table, not their name badge. Feelings of commonality of purpose (and as people in our personal goals) increased as we got to know each other.
Why is trust an important issue for multi-stakeholder processes? Simply because without trust, very little is possible. Groups don’t partner with others that they don’t trust. And with trust, goals that seemed unachievable become possible.
The key parts of my talk will be on :
A. What is Trust?
B. Civil Society typology – from protest to partnership
C. Why civil society are skeptics
D. Recommendations: How to build trust
I will make a number of recommendations, targetted particularly toward civil society engagement in ICT-related partnerships, but they are applicable to all kinds of partnership arrangements. Among my suggestions:
- Debate is good
- Ensure meaningful participation by all partners
- Recruit good moderators, facilitators
- Establish clear rules of order
- State clear membership criteria
- Provide support for civil society
- Enable others to learn about civil society
- Use creative means to develop trust
… at least that’s the plan so far….