The Trustbuilding Program (TBP) has been co-created by Initiative of Change International (IofCI) and the Fetzer Institute of Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA. IofCI’s current focus is captured in its tagline “building trust across the world’s divides.” At this time in history, virtually every country seems to be divided by deep cleavages of culture, language, race, ethnicity, religion, or class.
IofC International established the Trustbuilding Program, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), which brings together the best of our expertise to particular situations where there is conflict or tension. The program is invited to such places by local, national and/or international players in order to complement existing efforts to bring peace and positive change to a particular situation/region.
In September 2019 the program started in Canada, Kenya and France and in January 2021, the program was rolled out to Australia, Indonesia, Nepal and South Africa.
Social cohesion and equitable communities
Social cohesion lies at the centre of what makes a strong, vibrant and safe community. Connecting fragmented communities demands the best of everyone regardless of their race, political or belief systems. Building trust is the essential foundation for building healthy communities; it is not a technique that can be taught but rather a style of citizen leadership which offers a vision of hope and opportunity for everyone.
Quite often reforms needed in our communities require levels of political courage and trust-based collaboration that can only be achieved by individuals who have the vision, integrity, and persistence to call out the best in others and sustain deep and long-term efforts.
Initiatives of Change has a track record of a sustained multi-sector approach for reconciliation in support of efforts to overcome divisions, and to build social cohesion and equitable communities is based on transformation of individuals.
Goal of the Trustbuilding Program
The main goal of the program is to build trust across the world’s divides by developing ethical and trustworthy leaders at all levels.
How we do it
We inspire and equip people with the inner qualities, practices and skills needed to build trust across deep divides, heal historical wounds, bring together diverse groups in honest conversation, and develop and sustain multi-sector networks working for social cohesion and equity. We place an emphasis on identifying and equipping the next-generation of leaders.
Each local project is designed depending on the specific context and need with IofC expertise, knowledge and methods to address divisive issues translated into different circumstances and delivered on the ground where there are acute social divides.
Our trustbuilding work is guided by the following conceptual frame:
1. Start with your self
Initiatives of Change is based on the idea that the world changes for the better when we start the process of change with ourselves. Emphasis on personal responsibility breaks the cycle of denial, blame, and victimhood. Individuals become trustbuilders and creative changemakers by being willing to take a fearless look at their own attitudes and behaviour. Trustbuilders, whether or not they subscribe to any specific faith, need consistent set of values that are reflected in their personal lives and public actions.
2. Engaging everyone in honest conversations
Inclusive and open dialogue is at the heart of trustbuilding. In honest conversations, all stakeholders come to the table and remain engaged. Identifying underlying issues and creating safe space for dialogue, where participants can listen deeply to others and ask themselves hard questions, are crucial in uniting divided communities. This deep dialogue moves individuals from simply an exchange of information to an experience of transformation.
3. Acknowledge history
Understanding the power of history and memory in shaping community narratives is an essential part of the trustbuilding process. No meaningful conversation about the future could occur in a fragmented community without public acknowledgment of the pain and suffering experienced by a population. Acknowledging historical wounds and honouring different stories are necessary steps in creating new shared narratives and building movements to address legacies of inequity.
4. Building a team
Diverse teams composed of representatives of all sectors coming together to create a wholeness that incorporates diversity is the most effective force for change. Failure to build a genuinely diverse network of trust weakens many worthy initiatives.