Trust is the expectation that the behaviour of the other people of an organisation or community is predictable, honest and collaborative. This type of behaviour is based on the existence of a series of values and standards widely shared by the members of those groups. The mainstreaming of this expectation in society fosters the psychological wellbeing of people, enables the tackling of collective projects and strengthens the legitimacy of the institutions. Trust is an experience that occurs in the interactions between people and between them and the organisations and institutions that structure society. For example, a person can feel trust or mistrust with respect to the intentions of their fellow citizens, but also respect the authorities, police or social organisations.
Trust is closely related to two social attitudes: dialogue and cooperation. The three are interdependent and reciprocally feed into each other, thus generating, in the most positive cases, a virtuous circle of mutual reinforcement. Thus, the existence of spaces for dialogue fosters the interaction between different people, which generates trust and fosters cooperation. In turn, greater trust facilitates dialogue and cooperation, while the existence of cooperation strengthens both dialogue and the generation of trust. In recent decades, social capital has been the term referring to those capacities for action generated by the prevalence of trust-based relations within a group or a society.
Trust and its associated attitudes may also have a negative aspect when restricted to certain groups of a society that use their internal cohesion to exclude or try to exclude other groups. In that regard, there has to be a solidarity dimension to confront prejudices and stereotypes that reinforce the exclusion of some social groups in order for trust, dialogue and cooperation to be real citizen values.
Promoting trust has the following implications for the behaviour of individuals, the organisation of civil society and public institutions.
Trust, dialogue and the spirit of cooperation are fostered and initially transmitted in the sphere of everyday interactions. However, everyday life is not synonymous with spontaneity. Everyday interactions are measured by socially constructed visions of the world and of the specific society in which we live. The personal commitment to behave in a trust-based way, if there are no clear indications that recommend the contrary, is a first step to beak prejudices and expand the spaces of trust. That commitment is particularly important in the case of the people responsible for training new generations.
Any social organisation plays a key role in generating and reproducing trust between people and between the different groups they make up. Their discourses, their criteria and their functioning can help or hinder the creation of spaces for dialogue and cooperation between different groups. The work of the media with a great ability to expand or curb the dissemination of stereotypes fostering mistrust is particularly important.
Equal treatment by the institutions of all the inhabitants of the city, along with the transparency and trustworthiness of their actions are fundamental to generate credibility and trust among the citizens. Additionally, the governing of a city may foster mutual trust by means of generating spaces for dialogue and cooperation between different groups. Inclusion is particularly important in the deliberation on crucial matters for the coexistence of the plurality of stakeholders affected and/or interested in those matters, by facilitating mentoring focused on fostering recognition between the groups.