Acumen Blog

10 things #9 picture

Tom Mboya Responds to Acumen Fund’s Lesson #9 – There is no currency like trust, and there are no shortcuts to earning it

Acumen Fund is committed to sharing the learnings we have collected over our past 10 years. In this spirit, we have published  a document called 10 Things We’ve Learned About Tackling Global Poverty.” Each week on the Acumen Fund Blog, we will be posting the next lesson in this series of “10 Things,” along with a guest response from a valued member of our community.

9. There is no currency like trust, and there are no short cuts to earning it

The notion of trust is relative. Relative in that it means different things to different people, and there is no telling what it will take to earn the trust of another. To poor and marginalized communities, trust can be something of a foreign concept: a notion rarely experienced in life, a luxury of those who are blessed with good fortune. Consider an environment where safety and security are not guaranteed, where kinship is based solely on a shared set of circumstances, where disillusionment and a feeling of being disenfranchised are the order of the day. Circumstances such as these decrease the value of human life, and are far from a conducive atmosphere for fostering trust.

Sadly, there is no precise formula to earning trust. Yes, it takes time, but time alone does not guarantee trust.  There is no manual, spelling out the “10 Steps to Earning Trust,” and if there is, don’t believe a word of it! Again, trust is relative: easily given by some, jealously guarded by others. So while I may not be able to articulate how to earn trust, I have a fairly good idea where to begin: simply listen!

Listen, as one narrates the challenges they face in life, their deepest fears, or their greatest aspirations. Really listen: not as one might to a stranger on a bus or train, knowing you are unlikely to meet again; but as you would to a dear friend, catching up after being separated for years. Listening dignifies the person telling their story, and it validates their sentiments.

I am fortunate to work within an organization where I work with underprivileged young people, with whom I would not have an occasion to meet ordinarily. Working with these young people has been one of the most profound learning experiences of my life. Coming from a middle class background, one would be forgiven for assuming that I would have little in common with young people who have grown up in informal settlements. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though in the beginning interactions can be awkward, tense, and even uncomfortable, I have found that the act of going back time after time and creating numerous interactions around various activities has taught us that, in fact, we’re not that different. Over time, we develop understanding: an appreciation for the circumstances of another’s life, a sense of why people are the way they are or do the things they do. That understanding eventually breeds trust. I can’t say for certain whether all the young people I have encountered have come to trust me. What I can say with conviction is that listening has paved the way to trust. With every passing day, and every encounter, a greater level of understanding is achieved —a milestone on the road to trust.

The interesting thing about trust is that it may not be something we consciously and actively seek out. It is not a goal or priority that we set for ourselves as we begin each day; however, if we are to be truly honest, it is something that we are engaged in a constant struggle to achieve, and never really knowing if—or when—we have fully earned it.  The importance of trust in any relationship, transaction, or interaction cannot be overstated: establishing trust, regardless of how time consuming or onerous a task it may prove to be, is the most worthwhile investment one can possibly make. Simply put, without trust, there is nothing.

_

Tom Mboya is a governance and anti-corruption specialist with Ni Sisi!, a nationwide movement uniting Kenyans to form a collective identity to drive transformation in leadership and maisha. Check out his blog here.

Click here for the full “10 Things We’ve Learned About Tackling Global Poverty.”

Comments

Imagining the world as it could be

Christine Gitau is an East Africa Fellow and an enterprise coach at Craft Afrika, which provides business support services to craft entrepreneurs, enabling them build viable and thriving businesses in Kenya. At Acumen we often use the term “Moral Imagination” when talking about leadership. Christine wrote a reflection on how this concept has shifted her thinking. We could not be more proud of what she is building! [Read More]

How two Acumen Fellows are disrupting the education model in India

Whether its running youth soccer programs, providing vocational training services, or transforming the education system in India, Acumen India Fellows are driving real change in their communities.  Abbas Dadla and Abhilasha Sinha are India Fellows who are addressing the teacher shortage in India through the use of technology and peer collaboration. Find out what they are building below.  If you have grit, resilience and a commitment to creating change in your community in India, East Africa or Pakistan, we encourage you to apply for the Regional Fellowship Program! [Read More]

Meet Manjushree Patil, Founder of Aatman Academy

This month saw violent tragedies in Pakistan and Kenya, regions where Acumen works and which five classes of Acumen regional fellows call home. Among them there are dedicated teachers like Acumen India Fellow Manjushree Patil, crusaders against sex trafficking, builders of government, creators of liberating mobile medical technologies, and curators of slum sports programs. The need for strengthening the connections between those who are working for positive change against seemingly impossible odds has never been greater. We at Acumen have never been prouder to be the thread tying together these courageous individuals. Read more about Manjushree and how she is changing her community in India below! [Read More]

No, not silence again!

The Acumen Fellowship’s Cambridge Leadership Associates (CLA) training is notorious for digging deep, breaking Fellows down to reveal their deepest fears, identifying the sources of resilience that will fuel them with the tenacity to continue along the path to social change. Kahabi G. Isangula is an East Africa Regional Fellow living in Tanzania and recently participated in our CLA training. Get an idea of what it is like, below!  [Read More]

Announcing the Class of 2015 Acumen Global Fellows

Acumen Global Fellows are architects for the impact sector. They are innovators, game changers, visionaries, with various professional experiences looking to make substantial change in the world. They have thrived in companies such as Google; they have started their own companies in Sri Lanka, Canada and Malaysia.  They are choosing the challenge of working alongside our portfolio companies and immersing themselves in a rigorous leadership training. [Read More]

Welcoming Ajit Mahadevan as Acumen India Country Director

We are pleased to announce that Ajit Mahadevan will be joining Acumen as India Country Director. Ajit joins Acumen from Ernst & Young, where he has served as Advisory Partner & Leader (Life Sciences) for the past six years.  At EY, he was a strategic advisor to the leadership of some of the leading Indian and global life science and healthcare players with the focus being business transformation and growth.  Prior to his time at E&Y, Ajit was President of Piramal Healthcare, one of the leading pharmaceuticals companies in India, where he built the international business from inception in 2002 to $300M by the end of 2008. Ajit held multiple leadership roles across strategy, M&A and business leadership. During his tenure at Accenture’s Strategic Services practice in UK and India, he led the development of one of the firm’s largest and most successful internal projects – the Offshore Development Centre in 2001, which has now grown to about 100,000 people across multiple cities in India. Ajit has worked in an advisory capacity to Acumen in the past, most recently participating in Regional Fellows selection panels in Mumbai. [Read More]

Why We All Need A ‘Rikki’

Caren Wakoli is an emerging leader in East Africa who has launched a foundation to support the next generation of female leaders for Africa. Caren applied twice for the fellowship and was not accepted, but she did not give up. Her resilience and grit allowed her to persevere, and this year we are proud to have her as an East Africa Fellow. Below she shares her story on why everyone needs a ‘Rikki,’ and failure is never final.  [Read More]

Acumen Joins Beyond the Grid as Founding Partner

Acumen is proud to be a founding partner of Beyond the Grid, an innovative framework under President Obama’s Power Africa initiative to increase energy access for underserved populations across sub-Saharan Africa. Beyond the Grid will leverage partnerships with investors and practitioners committing to invest over $1 billion into off-grid and small scale solutions for this underserved market. [Read More]

Life after Lean

In May 2013, Sabrina Natasha Premji & Afzal Habib participated in +Acumen’s inaugural Lean for Social Change course based on Lean Start-Up principles. Enrollment for the next session of the Lean for Social Change course is open now. If you are working on a social issue in your community, are interested in pursuing your own social venture, or are just interested in creating an impact in this world…Register today! Sabrina & Afzal joined the course with a simple idea and the passion to transform the childcare crisis in East Africa’s informal settlements. Seven weeks later, they had developed a customer-tested business model ready to pilot in Kenya’s densest slums. Read their story below. [Read More]