The erosion of trust in government institutions.

“Trust is the glue that holds society together. If people don’t trust their government, they won’t trust anything else in the system either,” says Elaine Kallmeyer, Head of Trust Research at Germany-based Ipsos and former member of the German Bundestag (parliament).

The erosion of public trust in institutions is one of the most significant challenges we face today. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take more than just a few attempts to reverse this trend. Many citizens feel that their voices aren’t being heard and that none of their concerns are being addressed properly.

With mounting mistrust among the population, governments have become reluctant to pursue unpopular policies or implement new policies altogether. Overcoming mistrust requires an open exchange of ideas between stakeholders and transparency from all parties involved.

But what does this look like in practice? Let’s take a closer look at some of these factors to see how they influence our level of trust in government institutions.

Trust building activities

Many government activities are aimed at building trust to convince the public of their legitimacy. This might include the publication of annual reports, the holding of public online consultations and in-person town hall meetings. You might also see a more innovative approach to engagement, like using artificial intelligence to respond directly to citizens’ queries.

These activities can be valuable tools for building trust; however, they can also be highly dependent on the context. For example, annual reports are a helpful resource for showing citizens what a government agency does, but they don’t provide context for why a certain decision was made.

Efforts to build trust often have a significant impact on time, resources and context. This might be valuable when the government is new and trying to establish itself, but it can quickly become overbearing when the same issues keep coming up.

Government transparency

Transparency is often cited as a key factor in building trust in government institutions. It’s important to note, though, that transparency is not the same as open data or open government. It’s often used interchangeably with the concept of open data as a way to provide context and data to citizens.

Open data is data that is available online and free to access, copy and use by anyone. It can be difficult to know what constitutes open data, so it’s important to look at whether the government agency has published it or not. It’s also important to note that open data is only one part of transparency.

In addition to publishing data, governments can also publish explanatory content, share visualizations and publish public policies. These different forms of transparency provide different levels of context and insights into decisions. It’s critical to note that just publishing data isn’t enough; it needs to be accessible, organized and presented in a way that allows citizens to understand it.

Citizen engagement

Citizen engagement is a broad term that can refer to any form of communication between the government and the public. It can be through social media, government websites, email campaigns or other forms of technology. Engaging the public can provide valuable insights into the needs and expectations of citizens.

It can also allow the government to respond to these concerns and address any issues that arise. If the engagement is genuine and open, it can also have a role in the reconciliation process. This is a process that takes place after a conflict or conflict-related violence in which the parties involved in the conflict come together to discuss their past actions and try to make amends for mistakes.

Organizational culture and behavior

Government agencies also have a huge influence on the trust levels of citizens. The culture and behavior of an individual government employee can have a huge impact on the level of trust that you see in a government agency. Government agencies also have a huge impact on the trust levels of citizens.

The culture and behavior of an individual government employee can have a huge impact on the level of trust that you see in a government agency. Government employees tend to have a certain level of trust in their employers.

This trust becomes eroded if an employee sees their colleagues engaging in unethical behavior and acting in a way that undermines the public’s trust. With the erosion of trust and reduced resources, it’s not surprising that inconsistent behavior is starting to become more common. This inconsistency can hurt the trust levels of citizens, which might make them reluctant to engage with government officials in the future.