We have noted before that trust is a key component for effective dialogue. In this and the next few posts we will explore why accountability is a key component of trust. Creating trust over the long term involves much more than likeability of the participants or even procedural fairness of the process. It requires the willingness of those who are making policy to be accountable to citizens as a whole. By accountable we mean willing to act in predictable ways, for a stated purpose, to give an explanation of actions taken, and to report on results. This requires transparency in both rationale and action, consistency in both the principles used to make decisions and the approach used, alignment between talk and actions such as the allocation of time and resources, and responsibility for ensuring progress, including an ongoing willingness to evaluate what is working, what is not, why, and what might be done to better ensure progress. When citizens sense a disconnect in any of these areas, trust erodes. When citizens believe those in power are avoiding accountability of this type, anger and cynicism are likely to prevent or replace trust.
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