Thursday, June 17, 2021



Talia Smith is the Program Manager of the Trustbuilding Program. Before taking this position, she worked in different roles in the NGO sector, including international development work in South East Asia, across Africa, and more recently in Peru. What is Talia's view on trust and trustbuilding?   

Your bio states that you believe "trust to be a key element in addressing the root causes of suffering in the world and enabling people to reach their full potential." Why do you believe trust to be a key element?  

I mentioned that because addressing the suffering in the world and enabling people to reach their full potential is a purpose of mine and trust is a key element because it is the foundation of everything. I believe it is the foundation for spirituality (an attitude of trust to life), development (an attitude of trust in collaborating for good) and social capital (an attitude to sustaining well-being outcomes). Trust forms the basis of all human relationships and the more challenging the circumstances, the more important it becomes. That is why we have to give it the attention it deserves, because without trust, as they say - we have nothing.  

You have worked in different parts of the world, how has this influenced your view on trust and trustbuilding?  

I’ve learned that as well as trust meaning different things to different people, it differs between cultures and countries. I recently read that in Peru only 10% of respondents in the World Value Survey think that people can be trusted – that is very low. In Cambodia despite the rampant corruption, poverty and recent genocide, people trust each other. In South Africa, people trust others more than they trust the police which is the opposite in England. In each of these countries I have lived in, I have observed that trust differs. That is why it is so important to culturally contextualize the methodology and resources of the Trustbuilding Program before working in a country.    

Why do you think the Trustbuilding Program and Initiatives of Change can make a difference? 

Initiatives of Change (IofC) has been ‘building trust across the world’s divides’ for over 80 years and to this day, a number of IofC national bodies have trustbuilding projects that are making a difference to the communities where they work. The Trustbuilding Program is a chance to leverage our knowledge, skills, experience and contacts, to streamline our efforts and bring our global trustbuilding initiatives together in a clear, coherent and strategic way.   

In France, Kenya and Canada where the Trustbuilding Program is currently operating, we can already see the added value of the Program such as providing teams a focused action that everyone can plug into, having something to tangibly offer partners and volunteers, increasing visibility of IofC and enhancing skills and much needed capacity. The Program is making a difference both internally to the local teams and externally in the communities they are working in.

“In a visionary sense, I would like the Trustbuilding Program to play a role in helping to move the world beyond the ‘them and us’ mentality, beyond group allegiances, towards a world with a more inclusive atmosphere of compassion and integrity.” 

As being the Program Manager of the Trustbuilding Program, how are you making sure this program will be a success? 

It is a humbling privilege to be in this position and one with much responsibility to do exactly that – to make the Program a success! But luckily, it’s not just me. There is a fantastic team of great minds behind the Program, all working tirelessly to make it a success.   

I have always had the view that if we change one person’s life, the initiative is a success. Yet on this scale - geographically and funding wise – it’s not that simple. Success is professionally aligning the different functions (evaluation, planning, fundraising and communications) with IofC’s ‘essence’, it’s about encouraging a culture change, inspiring, equipping and connecting changemakers to be the change and ultimately, it’s about bridging divides. I have these in my mind each day as I wake up to begin working on the Trustbuilding Program’s daily tasks which I hope will step-by-step lead to these successes.   

Where would you like to see the Trustbuilding Program go in the future? 

I would like to see the Trustbuilding Program being brought to as many IofC teams around the world as possible. I have already seen the benefits the Program is providing in Kenya, Canada and France and I would love others to benefit. I want IofC to become known around the world as the trustbuilding organization.   

In a visionary sense, I would like the Trustbuilding Program to play a role in helping to move the world beyond the ‘them and us’ mentality, beyond group allegiances, towards a world with a more inclusive atmosphere of compassion and integrity.   

The Trustbuilding Program is aimed at addressing divisive issues at the international and national levels, on the premise that only those who have undergone the internal process of becoming trustworthy themselves can close gaps across the globe. The Program was launched by Initiatives of Change International in 2019 with projects in Kenya, Canada and France.