Photo taken by Lorenn Ruster in rural Uganda.

The human scale of trust

I recently read a reflection that talked about an ancient myth that describes our lifelong journeys.

To paraphrase (and from my memory — have tried to find it since online and with no luck…very interested if anyone knows) — You go through life with a knapsack on your back. It starts empty. There’s also a catapult and a shovel attached to it.

Dung is a natural part of your existence. Every time you come across dung, you need to make a choice: use the shovel to dig a hole and bury the dung, fertilising the path as you go or use the shovel to drop it into your knapsack. Diggers exert more effort as they go, but carry around an empty knapsack and walk on fertile ground. Droppers coast along without a lot of effort initially, but little by little your knapsack fills and eventually you’re drawn to using the catapult to fling some excess dung at those around you. Day by day, the droppers realise that in order to live a full and joyful life, they need to start to become diggers.

Are you a digger or a dropper?

I think a similar analogy applies to collaborations, particularly those across sectors and/or with people who operate very differently to you. How the nature of your collaboration deals with the dung is telling of how fruitful the work is. It takes time and effort to encourage digging within your collaboration. Let’s face it, it’s uncomfortable to deal with your own dung, let alone that of others.

With the help of some role models who can share their stories and the consequences of their choices shaping behaviour is possible. Consciously co-designing the way people can and desire to interact becomes crucial.

Under the pressure of deadlines, funding conditions and deliverables, it can be easy to default to a dropper mentality, putting ‘scaling fast’ at the forefront of minds and activities.

It can be easy to forget that principles of exponentially scaling technology and explosive business growth do not apply to the establishment of true collaborative relationships. The human scale of trust required is different.

It takes time.

It takes continued effort to co-fertilise a path forward.

It takes digging.