A little while back, I wrote a post about whether a trust-based society could help square the public service delivery circle: the idea being that, in a time of fewer resources but greater need, removing middling tiers of bureaucratic infrastructure from top-down projects could help more resources reach the grassroots and allow more delivery and impact to take place. That a 'contract-based' society that emphasises monitoring rather than measurement, accountability rather than transparency, is actually a hindrance to genuine devolution. (On that subject, there's an interesting piece worth reading on whether we there is now a risk of a new 'transparency bureaucracy' being created….).
There is an updated version of the paper SSE's chair Charlotte Young has written on this subject, downloadable as a pdf, which asks (and begins to answer): How Can Social Entrepreneurs Help Build A Big Society (pdf)
I was reminded of this reading this article yesterday by Aditya Chakrabortty about A Revolution in Global Aid which describes how cash is starting to be simply, well, given to the poor. No large infrastructure projects with government-NGO-private sector partnerships, but a devolving of money straight to those who need it. On the one hand, cash transfers like this sound ridiculously naive (as some of the comments below the article say), but it is actually about focusing on the best use of resources, about challenging the status quo, about being aware of the risks but being prepared to be radical. And about focusing on the outcomes, rather than on the intermediary processes and bureaucracy.
So, without wishing to sound like a hippy seeking to hug it out with all and sundry, I do wonder if trust could be a core part of the answer to the question that so many are asking in different ways: how can we deliver more for less? how can we achieve more efficiency but increase impact? how can we use the current circumstances to foster innovation at the grassroots? how do we create a big society?
And trust comes in different forms: not just trust from official bodies that money will be spent in a particular way, not just the trust that needs to return in those official institutions (political, financial), not just the trust to be (re)built in communities and between neighbours, not just the trust each social entrepreneur needs to build in their own work and those who support them, but also the trust in oneself to create and be part of change. As a wiser man than I put it (the playwright Chekhov), "You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible".
[hat tip as ever to the utterly brilliant Indexed blog for the image]
Trust is a really good word. Bonds of trust are what make all relationships work, whether with your local community, your partner or the newsagent down the road. There is a tendency for government to try to legislate instead, with all it’s monitoring task forces. In many ways, this is merely reflecting society at the time, but going forwards, we should be thinking about more informal bonds of trust. Good food for thought.