How do you know whether your civic engagement efforts are working or not? How do you know where to start? Is there sufficient trust to begin deliberation on a difficult issue, or do you need to build trust first? How do you know if civic engagement would help or hurt? Research has shown that civic engagement can increase trust leading to
- increased civic participation
- increased capacity for collective action
- enhanced responsiveness of government, and
- greater social cohesion across groups within a community.
Conversely, poor public engagement can erode trust, and even lead to political retaliation or increased division within the community. (Gaventa and Barrett, Oct. 2010. So What Difference Does It Make? Mapping the Outcomes of Citizen Engagement. Institute of Development Studies).
In one of our Spring calls we reviewed our Civic Health Diagnostic Workbook and several other resources people are using in their efforts to measure outcomes of civic engagement and ensure that those build, rather than erode, trust. Our workbook is specifically designed to help civic leaders turn their subjective interpretations of community strengths and weaknesses into a data set that can be monitored.
Another tool we like is the “4 cores of trust” checklists in The Speed of Trust. These can be adapted to apply to community interactions, and the concepts of “trust dividends” or “trust taxes” which are also outlined in the book are concepts that we find groups readily understand and are interested in discussing. We have found that introducing these concepts by drawing a continuum of tax to dividend (with definitions), and asking citizens to mark where they think the community is and why can spark some very interesting discussions.
Several other tools for developing an effective system for evaluating trust in your community were recommended during the call. These included The Empowerment Manual, using ripple mapping to measure both how people are taking action or taking on new roles because of engagement, and resources from Living Cities.
If you have had success with a particular resource, or have a question about evaluating trust, we invite you to share that in the comments.