Why trust and trustworthiness are important

Being ‘trustworthy’ is not the same as being ‘trusted’. An organisation might consider itself trustworthy, but it can only deem itself trusted once an external organisation has placed its trust in it in some manner – for instance, trusting it to deliver a product or perform a service. The crucial difference is that ‘being trusted’ is relational and involves one party deciding to place its trust in another.

And trust is not one-directional; while it is important that organisations are trusted by others, it is also important that they are able to trust others.

Ultimately, being ‘trusted’ and ‘able to trust’ others enables organisations to operate and ecosystems to function. Trust is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. In data ecosystems, trust is crucial to starting new flows and keeping existing flows going: from data, money and insights through to regulatory guidance, and service-use.

Because trust is relational and a means to an end, a lack of trust, loss of trust, or the inability to build trust with others can hinder an organisation’s ability to realise the value of their offer. If trust fails, then an existing flow of data might stop. If an organisation is unable to build trust with stakeholders or potential customers, then the service it is trying to launch might not be adopted.

Research conducted by economics consultancy Frontier Economics, commissioned by the ODI as part of the same project that produced this guidebook, confirms that if we want to create value with data, trust matters. Increases in trust correlate with increases in data flow and increases in potential value created. However, the opposite is true as well – reductions in trust correlate with reductions in data flow, leading to reductions in value created.

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