Trust in an era of ‘alternative' facts
By Sangeeta Waldron — The Global Thinkers Forum is a social purpose organisation that launched in 2012 under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan. It works for change by connecting international thought leaders, while promoting values-based leadership, collaboration and cross-cultural understanding. I had the opportunity to interview GTF’s founder, Elizabeth Filippouli in advance of the organisation’s event at the House of Lords on 17 July, looking at ‘Trust in an era of ‘Alternative’ Facts’.
SW: Why did you set up GTF?
EF: I felt the world needed a new governance model, which takes ethics seriously into account, including the decentralisation of power and information, thanks to technology and innovation. A group of us came together to create an organisation that’s a ‘bridge-builder’, committed to making positive change through collaboration, by nurturing accountable leadership and by promoting strategic thinking around some of the world’s key challenges, which includes extensive population movement. It is a fascinating time to be discussing and encouraging the idea of finding common ground in people’s thinking, and bringing them together under a common set of universal values. I feel, that I have had the opportunity to create the most interesting ‘job’ in the world for myself: I have founded an organisation that addresses the world’s most pressing challenges.
SW: GTF is holding a timely event at the House of Lords focused on trust and fake news with a great line up of panelists: Turkish author and activist Elif Shafak, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkol Karman and The Rt. Hon. The Lord Alderdice. Do you think we are in a ‘crisis of trust’ politically and within business here in the UK, and around the world?
EF: One of the major challenges in multi-stake holder collaboration is lack of trust. Civil society needs transparency and more participatory governance. Our world needs competent society leaders who can foresee or even create a future of prosperity and development. To overcome this ‘trust crisis’ we need to create opportunities for joined up thinking, collaboration and new partnerships. At our House of Lords event, the panel will discuss ways in which we can 'break' this distrust and increase public demand for quality media, while empowering citizens through information literacy.
SW: How did we lose it?
EF: What a great question. Now, there is surely more than one answer. Today there is abundance of information (and disinformation), but too little thinking and analysis. Human networks proliferate at a rapid pace, but people are in greater need of in-person information exchange than ever before, including genuine solid relationships.
SW: How do we repair these broken lines of trust and communication?
EF: Repairing trust is one of the most complex and challenging endeavours we can engage in, and think we need to focus our efforts to produce fresh thinking. Opening conduits for communication, collaboration and understanding. It is complex world out there, crying for new policies and initiatives to improve people’s lives, helping them prosper and develop. Power is in unity, not division. Progress is team work.
SW: What do you think needs to change to rebuild trust on the global leadership stage?
EF: Leadership as we know it is losing ground. Leaders themselves are clearly finding it tough to manage a continuum of change that affects perceptions, behaviours and decision-making. Let’s build new leadership models that draw from collective intelligence and taps into social capital. Take a look at what is happening in some economies around the world: for decades they have been reliant on a natural resource—oil—which now seems to be losing its once undisputed value. So, they realise it is necessary to diversify and invest in human talent.
People will trust their leaders again, when they see that leadership is insightful, visionary and capable to read the ‘weak signals’ that point towards the future.
SW: How does GTF create trust with other organisations and business leaders?
EF: Trust takes a long time to build and can be lost in a moment. We are always focused on producing value for our partners and stakeholders. We are always respectful of their individual issues and challenges. We are committed towards delivering our promises—we operate in transparency, with no hidden agendas.
SW: What advice do you give other business leaders?
EF: GTF’s model is based on the idea that there is immense value in human networks and that careful network analysis provides tools to solve social and other challenges. Information flows through the pattern of social ties in a community. The structure of these ties distinguishes who accesses novel, timely, and quality information. Today’s transforming —and polarized—societies struggle over identity, boundaries, long-established rules and regulations. Business leaders must pay attention to global vs. local balance and look to build relationships with and involve local partners. Plus, form partnerships and collaborate with non-traditional stakeholders. Non-corporate and non-profit local partners can provide the necessary expertise on social infrastructure and local legitimacy.
SW: What other important issues do you think are looming for global leaders to face and tackle?
EF: Networking and collaboration challenge the traditional power and role of hierarchy. While it remains uncertain exactly how the spread of technology will change governance models, it is clear that old solutions will not work in this new era. Leaders must integrate new value ideas, innovative structures, forward thinking and ethical processes that will allow their organizations, or even countries, to collaborate with obvious and unanticipated partners who add value for a whole that is greater than its parts.
SW: GTF is focused on women’s empowerment through its mentoring programme. What makes a good mentor?
EF: Our mentors are individuals with deep international experience, rich backgrounds across various sectors, such as business, government, civil society, diplomacy, academia, and media, which I believe are merits of a good mentor. Our mentoring programme supports creating the foundations for a more accountable world, by nurturing the next generation of women leaders. We believe women are at the heart of social transformations and global issues.
SW: What's next for GTF?
EF: We will be building further on our existing networks of communicators, experts, opinion-makers and thought-leaders, bringing a truly global approach to thinking. We will push dialogues and facilitate partnerships that will turn the world on its head when it comes to outdated, nonfunctional governance and social models. We are also creating high-level virtual and physical meetings; re-engineering group thinking in ways that promote problem-solving; and expanding to new countries, launching local networks and initiatives. Join us!
Sangeeta Waldron is the Principal of Serendipity, a PR firm which works with GTF.
Photo Credit: GTF