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Trust and trustworthiness: conceptual distinctions and their implications for natural resources management

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Few natural resource management (NRM) studies discriminate between trust and trustworthiness. However, this approach, which combines the attitude of one actor with the characteristics of another actor, is common in the organisational management literature. Our case study, set in a wildfire management context in Australia, sought to explore: (1) how community members and NRM staff defined trust and described trustworthiness; (2) how these trust definitions did, or did not, reflect conceptualisations in the literature; and, (3) whether explicitly differentiating between trust and trustworthiness is useful in an NRM context. Our findings suggest that participants defined trust in three main ways: as ‘having a good relationship’; as ‘being able to rely on others’ in a one-way manner; and, as ‘a relationship where parties rely on one another’ in a reciprocal manner. Our findings also suggest that participants differentiated these trust definitions from trustworthiness, that is, from the characteristics and actions which made an individual or agency worthy of trust. These findings suggest that it is useful to differentiate trust from trustworthiness, because it allows NRM managers and researchers to better understand both the trusting intentions of community members and the characteristics of the agency which contribute to that trust.
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Keywords: confidence; reliance; trust; trustworthiness; wildland fire

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute for Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, PO Box 789 Albury, 2640, NSW, Australia

Publication date: October 1, 2013

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