Over the past three weeks I have spoken to handful community experts, read even more articles and brainstormed hours with different community members, as well as Climate-KIC employees.

This blog post is dedicated to a recurring topic of my research adventurous, trust in the community.

Trust is an intangible but absolutely crucial bond within any sort of community, including the Climate-KIC Alumni Association. We often take it for granted, and hence forget to nurture it. My previous post discussed the issues of hierarchical structures; well I guess the fading of trust is directly linked to hierarchical structures. An interview with Michel Bachmann brought my attention the Community Canvas, which was by the way a great way to assess the status quo of the organisation. The guideline of the Community Canvas gives important insights into the details of community structures. Trust, for example, is considered to be a potential way to measure the success of the community. While it’s difficult to quantify trust, it’s a good thinking process to imagine in what ways trust is present in our community.

If we think about trust in CKAA, it is one of the most important parts of the “social contract” of the alumni members. Not only towards the elected board, but also towards the local leaders, and other members, who engage with each other on a daily basis. Because of trust we are able to elect people, start projects together, or even rent our room to other alumni. This bond, by far, is one of the most important characteristics of the organisation that needs to be boosted at the moment, and preserved, because what seems to be coming next for CKAA will require 100x more trust.

But? In case of CKAA trust the ‘but’ comes because I know that trust has been bleached over the last few years. The trust in boards, local leaders, as well as members or the whole CKAA itself is not strong enough at the moment.  I don’t think it’s something that can be blamed on individuals; I personally think that this goes back to a lack of open structure.

Therefore, of course, I see the solution in a much more excessive organisational structure.  A structure where people can support each other instead of establishing a “governing board”. An interesting talk with the founders of Loomio for instance brings the attention to super decentralised, democratic communities, where the power is distributed WITHIN the community rather than wielded over it. Power within will help us reach new heights. Therefore, I believe, what’s next for this community is the construction of a structure where power can be distributed much more efficiently to energise and mobilise members for action.

Of course building trust is not that simple, there are various questions that need to be answered: How can we better understand that status quo today?, What practices would rebuild the trust of those that left?, In an open community how can we monitor activity and change? How can we make sure that in a free community trust is not abused? How can we preserve the trust of “old” and new members?

Get ready people, we are going to new places!