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What is a Trust Exchange?


What is a Trust Exchange?

Without trust, 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 it.

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.   

Reputation 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 exchange applications.  

The 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.


 

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What is a Trust Exchange?