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Trust me!

2SCALE helps build business relationships. But trust is essential in any business relationship – so have we also helped to build trust? And can we measure improvements in trust? A team from Wageningen University used a combination of interviews and behavioral economic games to measure changes in trust levels over time. The ‘laboratory’ was a 2SCALE partnership in Kenya, where trade/processor Shalem Investments buys sorghum from several thousand smallholder farmers for processing and resale.

The study compared two groups of sorghum farmers: 144 farmers involved in the partnership (i.e. selling to Shalem) versus 96 farmers who sold to other buyers. Farmers were asked to rate their level of trust in the buyer on a 1-5 scale. Their judgment was based on several factors, such as: Does the buyer offer a fair price? Pay on time? Keeps a promise to buy, even if market factors change? Participating farmers rated Shalem at 4.65, non-participants rated their buyers at 2.18. Over time, trust levels had increased among ‘our’ farmers but not among non-partner farmers. Partner farmers mostly reported that trust had increased slightly or increased substantially. Non-partners said trust had not increased, or had even decreased.

Trust is hard to measure, and changes in trust levels may be due to multiple factors, not just 2SCALE. But clearly, we have played a part, and we expect that these relationships, because they are based on trust and transparency, will continue to last.

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