Trust | the core ingredient to working in the regions (and what that has to do with a good stew)

No matter what anyone tells you there is only one sure fire way to build trust in any regional community and that’s to keep showing up.

Every regional community has seen its fair share of Johnny-come-lately’s who appear from out of nowhere, point out the obvious accompanied with big ideas and then  disappear just as mysteriously.

Don’t be Johnny.

If you really want to build trust in a community whether you’re planning to live or work there you have to keep showing up.

But my budget doesn’t permit it!

As they say in the bush “stiff shit”. If you really want to get something done you need to do the work – otherwise, just bugger off and let the status quo prevail. Or, tick your funded box and move along, we’ve seen ‘you’ before.

Harsh? Pardon the attitude, it’s informed through my own witnessing of millions of dollars wasted on observers coming in, spewing their expertise all over their hopeful cohorts then disappearing just as quickly as they came. And nothing changes.

I’m sick of that stuff. Most people I know are sick of that stuff.

Dr. Ernesto Sirolli summed it up well when he said that in his practice he will only go where he’s invited. And I would whole heartedly agree with this with one caveat. Be aware that an invitation from one entity or one person MIGHT add to your cred. But it does not mean the whole community has welcomed you, there’s still work to be done.

Although regional communities may present as pleasant little problems to be solved they are so much more.

Rifts within communities can run deep and until you know a place, really know a place you simply will not be able to navigate the nuances and again your plans will be compromised and investment of time and money will be wasted.

Getting to know a community takes time. And your great ideas are best left until after you’ve had time to really understand what and who you are working with or at least come embedded with the flexibility (real flexibility) to change course very quickly if needed.

So what about showing up? Where do you begin?

Put your boots on the ground. Get your coffee at a local shop and sit in. Buy your dinner at the local pub and take your time at the table. Hire local venues for workshops and meetings and grab that drink after work.

Don’t rush off to the nearest Novotel, Stay.

Share your story, people care about who you are, where you came from and why even more than what you know and what you can do for them.

Look for similarities, intersection and alignment points and don’t be afraid to take make fun of yourself (take the piss out of yourself), nor offended if that happens at you because it probably will and that’s a good sign.

Generally what you’ll find with regional folks is what you see is what you get. And if people stop talking it’s probably because they’ve stopped listening – you need to start again.

Remember, as an outsider or newbie you’ll find you’re usually on the back foot. People who have lived in the community you are joining will tell you 25 years in they still aren’t quite considered a local. But don’t let that make you stop trying to build trust.

Think of trust as a good stew – put in quality ingredients, take it slow, give it time and it will build into a potent brew that sticks to your bones.

And remember, regional communities have been treated as a curiosity or junket for generations accepting start-stop approaches to alleviate challenges that simply require solid and long term investment. Be that person who hangs around, who listens, works collaboratively and sees your work through leaving behind skills as well as progress and trust is yours. Or, at the very least align yourself and add to what is already happening.

While regional impact activities can look backwards or undeveloped to the naked eye – it’s quite likely they have been born through necessity and that necessity has taken a lot of tenacity which deserves nurturing.

Drop me a line if you need directions to the local watering hole.

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