Is Trust Scalable?

August 11, 2023

Internet business people are always obsessed with whether your project will scale. If you can serve more and more people while spending fewer resources per person, you’ve at the very least excited a lot of venture capitalists. As a startup with limited resources, our goal at ARTT is to create opportunities for trusted conversations online for as many people as possible, as efficiently as possible. That means we need to think about scale.

So lately what I’ve been thinking about a lot are banks. Bloomberg’s Matt Levine has a nice bit where he says that there are basically two ways to understand what banks are:

  • Theory One is that banks are essentially list-keeping entities; their primary function is to keep track of who has money and move the money from one person to another.
  • Theory Two says that, no, what banks are in essence are trust-keeping entities; that is, banks are organizations that make some pretty fundamental economic activities possible by pooling money and lowering risk, creating trust between parties.

The whole point of Theory Two is that banks are really in the relationship business because they invest a lot of time and money into a community so that depositors trust that their money will be there when they need it.

This second theory, Levine argues, is how bankers think of themselves, and while there are all sorts of ways you can think of that banks have at times in fact actually performed a trust-destroying function ("redlining" comes to mind), it’s a useful way of looking at things. And one thing that emerges from this is that for banks trust is a function of presence and time: Compared to banks with few or no branches, banks that had a high community presence saw fewer customers pulling out all their money during the recent bank runs.

So what is the equivalent for community health organizations that are strapped for resources? Our thought for ARTT is to create tools to help increase your presence and build trust in the community. We think helping make better responses that are faster and serve a larger community given the limited resources many public communications departments have is one way to address this. What are others?

What do you think? Leave your response here, we'd love to hear from you!