Trust in Conservation, Intangible but Essential
Trust is a difficult concept no matter what cultural or individual beliefs are involved. Who people trust largely comes down to who they deem to be reliable and worthy. This may be a friend, a group leader, a relative, or even a higher power. Regardless of who your target audience trusts, it is essential that they develop a trusting relationship with yourself in order to achieve successful conservation. Trust is not fixed, it can be gained and lost. And who people trust and the reasons behind this trust are also changeable. So how do you go about establishing mutual trust when entering a new community as an outsider? Particularly when your intentions are to alter their behaviors, beliefs, or lifestyles in some way?
By using cultural norms and societal structure you are able build a theoretical foundation on which to develop a trusting relationship between yourself and a new community. By looking at who the community trusts, you are able to focus on first establishing trust with them, thereby paving your way for the rest of the community. Simply put, people are more willing to listen to a person they know, rather than a stranger. Context and framing are everything when introducing a new conservation plan to a community, but they mean nothing without trust. If the community does not trust you, the most seemingly logical and effective plan will never come to fruition.
Trust is also inextricably linked to debunking myths, particularly when the myths are fundamental to their cultural ideologies. How do you maintain trust once you start contradicting their beliefs that have existed for generations? The community may become wary once you have positioned yourself in opposition of their cultural ideology and dearly held beliefs. Trust is challenging to establish no matter the context, and I’m still not clear on the best tactics for doing so in a multicultural conservation context. However, there is no chance for success without first developing a thorough understanding of the culture, and entering the situation with a mentality of mutual respect. Despite all the cultural differences that may present in a multicultural interaction, we still are want the same things from other people – respect, honesty, and the chance to speak from an equal platform. Start off with those, and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to develop a more trusting relationship between yourself and a new community.
Categories: Culture & Nature