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Overcoming mistrust

When I first tried to list the challenges faced in creating change, it was quite a long list. However, most of them boil down to - resources, chiefly financial; and attitudes. In my experience, the process of creating change in poor communities is almost always accompanied with hefty doses of mistrust and scepticism. For a number of the communities, they have been down this road before. They often tell me that sometime in the past someone came with the same song and dance and nothing changed, so what is different this time? Then they ask, how much have you been given to implement this project? What is our share? Because they have come to believe that there is no reason why anyone should be interested in their lack of good roads, schools, potable water, jobs – take your pick, the list is virtually endless; unless it is a scheme to siphon already allocated funds, which they never benefit from anyway. In typical Nigerian speak, they often say ‘na today’, meaning this is an old gimmick.

Breaking through deep-rooted mistrust is tough. At least the challenge posed by insufficient funds is pretty much straight forward, at its simplest form it boils down to knowing how much you have and how much more you need. Building trust and acceptance for the project is another matter. Inviting community members to attend workshops and meetings where you explain implies that the chosen few that are invited are in on the scheme, and this leads to resentment along with your initial mistrust. So we hold community parleys, and invite as many members of the community as can make it to attend. We have also found that arranging light refreshments also boosts attendance at these meetings. Here we explain, and swear on as many graves as we can, that yes this time is different, no it is not some scheme to misappropriate government funds. In time, most of the community accepts the project, although some die-hard sceptics remain. So although we are usually not able to attain total community support, we have enough to ease our implementation and live in hope that our impacts are enough to sway the rest in the end.

In overcoming community mistrust, I think that online communities provide an immediate pool of resources to tap and the opportunity to learn from best practices implemented in similar contexts elsewhere. In future when I face difficulty, I can easily see myself posting a help wanted request on the forum.


Julene's picture


I enjoyed reading your post, and I could really feel your struggle with how to get not just the women in your community, but all citizens alike, to trust that you want to help. Trust is a very delicate feeling, and it takes much longer to build trust than it does to break it. And although you aren't the one to break their trust, you now have the daunting task of building their trust back up. I wish you much luck with that :) Just remember to have patience and perserverence, and at sometime in the future - when you and the group you are working with - keep holding up to the promises that you make them, they will learn to start trusting you.

As far as World Pulse and Web 2.0, I would be very interested to hear more on how you would use this forum to pursue your mission of building that trust with your community. Do many of the people in your community have access to the Internet where they could read what you post? Or would you use it more to get ideas from outside of your community to help with your goals?

Remember, have patience with your community, and trust yourself. You have the passion to accomplish the goals you've set for yourself, and I believe you will succeed with time.


vyarie's picture


I really enjoyed reading your entry. Your writing is direct, honest, and intelligent. By the sounds of it, your are knowledgeable in your community and have already assessed the difficulties and solutions in overcoming this. You appear to be a true grass roots leader, and I am sure you will successful in building trust in your community.

It is inspiring to read that there are such talented, thoughtful, caring women in this world. I hope that you continue to participate in the World Pulse community.



Kim Crane's picture

you have resources to share too!

That is wonderful that you think PulseWire might be a useful resource for you to look for help in dealing with these issues. I hope you will also continue to use PulseWire to write about solutions you have found to solve local problems. It sounds like you are doing an amazing job navigating some tricky issues in your work, and who knows who may read your stories and find it helpful to the work that they are doing.

I enjoyed reading your post and I'd love to hear more about your work and how online communities can help you accomplish your work. I think it is particularly interesting that you are suggesting online communities can be used to create trust. The effectiveness of online communities is sometimes critiqued on the basis of how hard it can be to build trust over the internet. I am very interested in the question of what it takes for people to trust each other enough to share resources over the internet, and then how (and I think this is more what you were getting at in your post) the internet can be used to build trust and share resources offline. Thanks for bringing up some interesting issues! I hope you will continue to share!

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