Mind the (Trust) Gap

Solutions Journalism Network

By its very nature, citizens’ trust in government can be a less tangible and harder to measure metric than things like budgets or votes. But, as James Anderson and Michele Jolin argue in their article “Rebuilding Trust in Government is Key to Strengthening Cities,” it is no less important for effective government. In their words, “trust matters to the success of any big reform, especially those that require social consensus to be effective and sustainable.” Trust isn’t just a box to check for policymakers, but rather the foundation upon which elected officials should solve problems and devise innovative policies. 

Unfortunately, the United States is in a trust crisis. Communications firm Edelman recently found that their annual Trust Barometer had plunged 14 points in a single year to a mere 33 percent of Americans who trust their government. But one doesn’t just have to launch a public opinion survey to realize the extent of the country’s trust gap. From congressional gridlock to high profile police shootings, the average American citizen has much to lose faith about. 

This doesn’t mean all hope--and trust--is lost. City governments around the world are employing innovative techniques to build and rebuild citizen confidence. These trust-building measures range from volunteer health ambassadors in Dutse, Nigeria, to safe injection sites in Montreal, Canada. And in San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico, a former mayor set up a binational Citizenship Culture Survey to figure out just how big the trust gap is before addressing it. 

Though the methods vary, the underlying philosophy is the same: city governments must meaningfully engage all citizens by inviting them into policy design, development, and delivery. 

Explore a Story Map of the solutions here

External Links