By Hafeni Mthoko: Project strategist and evaluator
Reflecting on the MobiSAM baseline study, one theme that keeps arising when discussing service delivery satisfaction and participation in local government is that of trust.
Some of the findings from the baseline study indicate that citizens’ main reason for attending meetings and forums hosted by local government is the desire to be more aware of what is happening in the community.
They want to know what local government is engaging in and gain updates on the promises that local government has made.
Moreover, citizens believe that their views are not being heard; and hence, do not make an effort to participate in local government. Some have gone as far as clearly articulating that they do not trust local government. They are unhappy to the extent that some do not partake in elections. They highlighted that participating in local government is a waste of time as there is no visible change taking place. Therefore, more accountability by local government (to build trust) was a piece of advice suggested by a concerned citizen.
Trust is KEY in any relationship; definitely, when considering the relationship between local government and citizens.
“A team without trust isn’t really a team; it’s just a group of individuals working together often making disappointing progress. They may not share information, they might battle over rights and responsibilities and they may not cooperate with one another. It doesn’t matter how capable or talented your people are, they may never reach their full potential if trust isn’t present”. Mind Tools.
Some common, and obvious, ways to build trust include (Micheal Hyatt, 2016):
• Leading by example and keeping ones word
For any trust relationship to develop there needs to be accountability. Citizens need to know that government will deliver on its promises. Consequently, in cases promises are broken, there should be open communication to keep citizens informed and reasons for promises being broken.
• Telling the good, bad and ugly
Open communication is important. Local government should acknowledge its mistakes, flaws and keep open two-way communication with its citizens.
• Being transparent
Being authentic and taking the initiative to demonstrate trust is another practical way of building trust. Local government should take the risk to share itself about who they are with their citizens. Providing an inside scoop of local government and being transparent continues to mould the trust relationship between citizens and government.
• Having pure motives
Keeping citizen interest at heart and giving of oneself is one characteristic that local government can utilise to rebuild trust with its citizens. Sharing knowledge, showing compassion towards its citizens and not expecting anything in return should be a driver of local government culture.
These are useful pointers to build and rebuild trust between different entities in a relationship. With increasing levels of trust, citizen perceptions of local government will might begin to shift. So where does MobiSAM fit into the picture?
Through the trust development process, MobiSAM can aid local government in telling the “good, bad and ugly”; while providing a platform to keep an open line of two-way communication with citizens. This not only does this develop a culture of accountability, but also fosters a sense of being transparent and open to improving the relationship between local government and citizens.