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The building blocks of trust

Yesterday I launched a fundraiser for the extended Tamang family in Thulo Syabru, Nepal on You Caring and sent it out through my social network. Amazingly, the campaign has raised 30% of the goal in 24 hours and we owe a massive thank you to everyone who has contributed so far. Several people reached out in response to the donation request with questions like, “how can you ensure that the funds are delivered successfully to the intended recipient?” or “how will you know that the funds are used responsibly?”. These are issues that I myself have struggled with and have discouraged me from donating money in the past. The most valuable advice I received while preparing the fundraising campaign was:

“if you trust the people, give freely and without expectations…everyone is trying to balance to desire to help directly and the responsibility to help in an accountable manner. It’s not an easy thing to accomplish, but I would start small and focus on who and what you know best.”

It just so happens that I’m currently reading The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey, which provides a great framework for discussing trust. He divides trust into waves (self, relationship, organization, market and society) and then breaks down self and relationship trust into a number of core attributes and behaviours. Integrity, intent, capabilities and results provide the foundation of credibility necessary to build trust. They are reinforced by consistent behaviours such as demonstrating respect, showing loyalty and keeping commitments. Here is how I came to trust the Tamang family.

Based on a local recommendation, I stayed at Panorama Guesthouse in Gompa on my way back from Langtang. Gyalmo, the owner of Panorama guesthouse, gave me two freshly baked cookies to deliver to her dear friend Tsering, owner of Paradise Guesthouse in Thulo Syabru. Along the way I met Karsang, who convinced me to hire his father Singi as a porter. Due to an unfortunate incident in Annapurna earlier that season, the trail to Gosaikund was overwhelmed with trekkers. Singi was a fabulous guide, who navigated the back trails with ease and negotiated us a place to stay when all accommodations were full. On my way back through Thulo Syabru I stayed at Paradise Guesthouse with Tsering’s family, who also made room even though the guesthouse was fully booked. When they learned about my preparations and plans to race in Pokhara, they were concerned that I wouldn’t make it back to Kathmandu in time. Just a few days prior, a local public bus flipped on the road between Kathmandu and Langtang Valley, killing many passengers. Private cars were hard to hire and the road was in poor condition. Gautam offered to deliver me back to Kathmandu by motorcycle, which he did successfully and with care.

As you can see, members of the Tamang family had many opportunities to build their credibility with me. They went out of their way to provide guidance, shelter, and keep me safe. I relied on them and they repeatedly earned that trust. They proved their integrity through honesty, intent by their genuine concern for my safety, capabilities with wise choices and results by following through.

To be honest, it’s harder to imagine why they would trust me. How many times has a foreigner trekked through their village, stayed in their guesthouses, enjoyed their harvest, relied on their guidance, made empty promises to keep in touch and was never heard from again? In fact, you might say that my efforts are “taxed” (to borrow another Covey concept) because of expectations set by previous interactions. Sure, many people within my social network trust me, but they have plenty of data points to work with. While delivering cookies without eating them might be perceived as a huge deal among those who know me, it is a far cry from the demonstrations they provided me during my visit to Langtang Valley. It’s wonderful to see that Thulo Syabru hospitality was also extended to trekkers during the earthquake and that 7 of them are actively raising funds to help rebuild the village.

Now I also have the opportunity to keep my commitment and build trust. Starting small, I have just set up the first Western Union transfer for US$2,000. My hope is to send Guatam funds in three instalments over the next month, which he will also distribute to Gyalmo and Singi families. I have reached out to the leaders of the GoFundMe campaign and will likely support their efforts to provide funding to all of Thulo Syabru once my campaign is over. I trust that Gautam will give the funds to the intended recipients. I trust that they know best how to use these funds. I thank all of the supporters for extending their trust to the villagers through me.

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