Just Trust Me: Exploring and Understanding the Role of Trust in Collaborative Efforts

Shawn Johnson, Director of the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy, University of Montana, and chair of the Center’s graduate certificate program in Natural Resources Conflict Resolution

Aireona Raschke, Associate Director of Practice, Center for Collaborative Conservation at the Warner College of Natural Resources CSU

Shannon Wadas, Associate Director, RiversEdge West


Restoration on any scale can be a daunting endeavor and one that is often more manageable and successful with a collaborative approach. Because collaborative efforts are largely supplemental to existing organizations, institutions, and structures, they rely on effective relationships rather than formal or hierarchical power to function. These relationships take many forms – interpersonal, interagency, cross-cultural – and include relationships to place and to process. Regardless of the type of relationship, it requires a certain amount of trust in order to unlock the promise of that relationship – whether that’s greater knowledge and understanding, access to more capacity and resources, accountability to a process, or an abiding connection to place. We will dive into why trust matters and then explore approaches, tools, and skills for building, restoring, and communicating about the state of trust among partners. We will spend some time on peer-to-peer learning through the sharing of experiences and discuss how we have navigated the ups and downs of trust among our partnerships, coalescing the theoretical with the practical to provide some tangible skills and resources around engaging and sustaining your collaboratives.