How do you trust?
WaltHopkins,CastleCons ultants
To explore the process of creating trust in a multicultural or multifunctional group
This is particularly useful where the group is an intact one, working together much of the
time. The exercise as timed and formulated works for groups of roughly 10 to 20 people.
60 to 75 minutes
Several flipcharts and markers
Large open space, with flexible seating that can be both moved aside and set up quickly
and easily
1. Ask people to form a line across the room. Announce that one end of the room is for those
who always trust other people. The other end is for those who trust no one, ever. People
can stand anywhere along the continuum as appropriate. (5 minutes)
2. Look at the clusters that form along the continuum and seek out two volunteers from
diverse cultures, genders, or backgrounds from the opposite ends of the room. Ask these
volunteers if they are willing to discuss trust for 10 to 15 minutes in a fishbowl formed by
having the rest of the group sit in a circle around them.
3. Form the “fishbowl” and ask the two volunteers to discuss the following questions. It will
help to put the questions on a flipchart that can be seen easily:
What does “trust” mean to each of you?
What criteria would each of you use to decide whether to trust someone or not?
(If the participants are an intact work group working virtually, you may want to add:
What are your criteria for trusting someone with whom you work virtually?)
Share any notable experiences of trust or lack of trust that you personally experienced
and wish to discuss. (10 to 15 minutes)
4. Debrief the activity by
asking the two “fish” what they learned, felt, or experienced while doing this;
asking the observers what they learned and observed about the differences in under-
standings and attitudes between the two “fish.” (5 to 10 minutes)
5. Repeat the process in step 1, asking people to form a line across the room and then posi-
tion themselves on the continuum between total trust and non-trust. This offers them a
chance to reassess themselves in the light of the fishbowl discussion. (5 minutes)
6. Using the main clusters that occur in this placement, put people into at least two, but
preferably three groups. Ask each group to list on a flipchart:
How did your cultural background (national, ethnic, professional, etc., cultures, or a
mixture of them) affect your position on trust?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of your definition of trust?
What strategies would you choose to create a higher level of trust? (10 to 15 minutes)
Walk the whole group around the art gallery of flipcharts and encourage people to ask clari-
fying questions. Debrief further in a circle session if necessary. (10 minutes)

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