Tuesday, November 8, 2011

(Photo: Adriana Borra)

While the Occupy Wall Street protests exposed deep divides in the US, a group in Washington, DC, was building trust and dialogue. Mary Ella Keblusek reports in Global Update on The Trust Factor. These are excerpts from her story.

"A year ago when we began our planning, we couldn’t have known how relevant this theme and location would be,” says Rob Corcoran, National Director of Initiatives of Change. “With the government in paralysis, financial systems closing down, and the global order in chaos, holding such an event in Washington, DC, created a sense of focus and urgency among the more than one hundred participants.” 

The Trust Factor was a series of panels, dialogues, workshops and other events held in October in venues throughout the city to explore the need for trust in politics, race, economics, and religion. The foundation for the week was laid from the beginning, with a spirit of partnership that brought together young leadership from more than 10 organizations with local, national, and global outreach.

A highlight of the week was the honoring of four renowned trustbuilders at a reception hosted by Australian Ambassador Kim Beazley, who used these words to describe a trustbuilder: “Our societies are ready for humans who lead in humility, listen to others, and exercise their conscience.”

Azhar Hussain, Dr Douglas Johnston, Terry Flood, Dr Gail Christopher (Photo: Karen Elliott Greisdorf)

Awardees included Terry Flood, co-founder and executive director of Jubilee Jobs, for her work to build trust across economic divides in helping over 22,000 people in the DC area obtain jobs and self-sufficiency, and Dr Gail Christopher, vice president for programs at the WK Kellogg Foundation, for leading her organization to a commitment to address racial healing and inequities.

Awards were also given to two individuals with the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD): Dr Douglas Johnston, founder and president, and Azhar Hussain, senior vice president for preventive diplomacy. ICRD has helped the US foreign policy establishment and academia to focus on the importance of understanding and respecting the faith of those in other cultures in the context of diplomatic efforts.

Two events focused on the systemic problems in the financial system. Lester Myers, an attorney, CPA, Georgetown University professor and Caux Roundtable Fellow spoke of a vast failure in trust at almost every level: bank officers, borrowers, regulators, corporate executives, credit agencies, politicians, lawyers, CPAs, and the media. “‘Each group pursued its own agenda, while remaining morally oblivious and even willfully blind to the impact of their actions on others.” In a panel discussion on socially responsible investing led by the Calvert Foundation, we learned that individuals have more economic power than most realize. The panel encouraged careful consideration of whom we choose to bank and invest with, so that our money can support local needs, instead of anonymous global projects with little oversight or accountability.

Trusbuilding Tools for Racial Healing (Photo: Adriana Borra)

A workshop, drawing on the methodology of Hope in the Cities, offered trustbuilding tools for racial healing and community change. It explored the challenge of creating an environment where difficult truths can be spoken, allowing healing and cooperation. Community organizer and trainer Dushaw Hocket summed up his participation: “Trust is fragile and is based on our ability to embrace and hold multiple and competing truths, allowing individuals to accept the facts, while maintaining hope for a more trusting future.”

The final day addressed civic participation and responsibility in building trust in public life. Panelist Mee Moua of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, and a former state senator, encouraged participants to remember the humanity of elected officials. “We must create authentic relationships with our civic and elected leaders, instead of transactional relationships where we only contact them when we need something.”’

The Trust Factor week was a success on many levels. It demonstrated the power of broad collaboration with partners and showed the importance of considering trust from many perspectives. It is clear this is only the beginning. The ‘trust’ conversation will continue in DC, and migrate in various forms to other locations. For more stories from The Trust Factor, check out www.us.iofc.org/trust-factor-news.

Read the complete story in Global Update