Trust – an essential, yet fragile ingredient of any relationship or collaboration. I’m reminded of that as I proceed to firm up the stories and the individuals that ultimately will be the heart and soul of this project. Essentially I am asking people to trust me to tell their story. I know who I am and that I can be trusted but – how do I convey that to people from various cultures and sometimes through another language?
As convenient as email is for communicating with people across the globe in different time zones, it’s really difficult to convey the nuances of character and personality that only a face to face meeting can provide. Unfortunately face to face meetings when planning a project of this scope (geographically speaking) are out of the question.
I was extremely fortunate to meet with Letha Sandison who runs WrapUpAfrica in Uganda, when she was in New York City this past week. Letha and I have a mutual connection, Maggie Doyne. Maggie comes from my town and Letha and Maggie met while both participating at the TED talks in Amsterdam. So, I had a bit of trust going for me from the start through a personal connection. But after we spent an hour or so over coffee and talked about who we were, where we came from and what we wanted to achieve, we built trust in one another. And that’s essential for a successful and meaningful collaboration.
Many times I have been faced with trying to gain someone’s trust – many times following in the footsteps of someone who had broken their trust. I faced this when I first started on another personal project The Delta Bluesmen. It didn’t occur to me in my naivete that I would be perceived as another “white Yankee” who was out to take advantage of them. It took me some time to build their trust. I had no connections in their world that I could look to for introductions, and the only way I managed to gain their trust was by making repeated trips to the Delta.
The irony is that many times trust is broken by those who have the best intentions at heart but couldn’t follow through because they had unrealistic expectations of what they were up against. I have the wisdom at this point in my life to know that one must always have dreams but dreams can only happen with a check on reality. I have a lot of dreams and when I’m prepared to act on them is when I put them in motion. I’m not a quitter and I tend not to start something that I don’t really feel I can follow through on.
Anyone who really knows me or who has worked with me knows they can count on me – they can trust me. But how do I get that across in an email to someone from another culture on the other side of the world? I did a lot of hitch hiking in my younger days – somehow immune to the very real fears that I should have had in regards to traveling that way. I had to rely on my gut -and make a split second decision when a driver rolled down his window asking me where I was headed – should I trust them or shouldn’t I? I’m certain that I’m alive today because learned to I trust my instincts.
Trust works both ways. For this project, I’m not only asking people to trust me to tell their story but I too need to take a leap of faith that I can trust them as well. I’m trusting them, by the very nature of the fact that I’ll be traveling half way around the world using my own funds that they will come through for me. So once again I need to rely on my gut – but how do I do that these days electronically? Not easy. With that said, I feel good about how this project is coming together but I do need a bit of help in finding some leads in Australia and Russia. If anyone has any personal contacts in those areas – I’d love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.