Driving Inclusion Through Trust

January 18, 2017

by Rick Haythornthwaite

When I last shared thoughts on this site, my comments focused on the importance of building and maintaining “trust.” In that brief piece, there was an exploration on the importance and weight of those five simple letters. It is necessary and expected that each party involved in an action or transaction should see, believe in and deliver on a shared commitment.

As we begin a new year, I’ve taken some time to reflect on what the world has witnessed – and learned – over the course of the past 12 months and how it might impact trust and efforts to drive more inclusion.

The first, and perhaps most obvious, is that deep divisions across society have burst to the surface with the disillusioned, disenfranchised and generally discontented not only discovering a voice but also using it to powerful effect. What is clear is that barriers between different and distinct social groups is not what is expected across geographies or across cultures.

In a powerful example, sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild describes the frustration amongst residents of Louisiana that their journey to the American Dream has been thwarted by policies that “thrust people ahead of them in the queue‘’ – and of resentment at being told who and what they should care for at a time when they are struggling to care for themselves and their families.

This one glimpse of a hitherto submerged world helps explain narratives playing out in many markets and countries.  These empathy walls are unfavorable to the broad-based inclusion and trust that are crucial to a thriving society.

This week, leaders from across politics, business and civic society are gathering in Davos for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. The temptation will be to respond to such times of uncertainty by trying to devise and impose a new order.

Instead, we can and should focus on equipping leaders, both local and global, to help those that feel excluded in a way that forges the connections – financial, economic and social – vital to restoring opportunity, belief, momentum, wealth and well-being to their lives.

In other words, tackle the issues of social inclusion that, today, stand between us and a bias towards trust in society. And only then, once a degree of trust has been restored, might there be an opening to redefine the governance systems and agendas that we need to take us forward in the 21st century.

Rick Haythornthwaite serves as the Chairman of Mastercard.

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