What is a Trust Exchange?
life is hard, transactions are expensive, difficult to complete, and risky. In some parts of the
world, lack of trust makes simply staying
alive a struggle. Trust, on the other
hand, makes life, business, and social systems much
nicer, smoother, and more "human". But
misplaced trust can be worse than no
trust at all.
Trust is thus
very valuable to both individuals and to societies. Our entire
world suffers especially from deep fragmentation caused by lack of
trust, ranging from violent animosity, to winner-take-all competition,
to open distrust, to narrow tribal and personal focus, to simple
indifference or ignorance of others' knowledge and perspectives.
Fragmentation is our common enemy.
All things of value can be exchanged, including cotton, labor, stocks and bonds, IP, knowledge. Trust can also be exchanged. Trust is exchanged
when two people - or two organizations, two ethnic groups, or two nations --
mutually decide to trust each other,
and more, are willing to help each other when needed.
But exchange of all of these other things can
be and have been augmented by technology - into local, regional and global "exchanges". By contrast, automating the exchange of trust has been much more difficult. Why?
Because trust is essentially personal and difficult to standardize.
Trust also must be freely exchanged. That
is, trust cannot be exchanged purely for personal gain; it is
exchanged because mutual trust in
some way has been established. Trust is exchanged for mutual
benefit, and when exchanged the giver doesn't lose it, but also gains
Standardized contracts and the legal and enforcement systems that make them
work can fill the gap when trust is lacking. But signing an enforceable contract is not really
a trust exchange. The lack of trust is what makes crafting and enforcing legal agreements so extremely expensive.
Internet-enhanced social capital networks can greatly facilitate and amplify the exchange of trust. By "social capital
network" we mean human networks where each connection in the network includes an important degree of personal trust and reciprocity. By nature, social capital networks are "extended social networks" which means that they extend beyond first degree connections to include 2+
degree connections, e.g., contacts of contacts, and contacts of those contacts.
Many social network platforms on the Web today focus primarily on "first-degree" networks, e.g., a
network composed of myself and some other people whom I already know. However, there are some extremely powerful "trust exchange" applications of social networks that include tools for using extended social networks.
For example, when one person introduces
two people he or she knows, and when both of those people trust
the introducer, then it becomes relatively easy for the two previous strangers to exchange trust. In addition, extended social networks can
also help increase the exchange of trust
between two people or groups who are already marginally connected.
systems, social network maps and user-defined access controls for
selective privacy are other applications that faciliate exchange of
trust. Each trust exchange app enhances and is enhanced by all
the other trust
best collaborative methods also specifically facilitate the exchange of
trust. For example, methods for facilitating dialogue help
create a field of safety and encouragement for suspending
assumptions, listening with an open mind, and speaking from the
heart. Other methods, such as Appreciative Inquiry, World Cafe
conversations, Dynamic Facilitation, and Focused Conversations also
work by means of exchange of trust. Facilitating the exchange of trust within and between networks - and meta networks - is a primary focus of the Global Trust Exchange. Our common quest is to make the exchange of trust spread and scale.