Connecting local responses around the world
A deeper level of humanity - getting to know SALT and CLCP
“Everywhere you look, you see remarkable individuals and communities that have managed to break through the walls of trauma and tyranny in order to connect to their deep sources of humanity. What are the conditions that make these breakthroughs possible and allow “miracles” to happen time and again?” (Scharmer & Kaufer in “Leading from the emerging future”)
Ambitious to find out more about Theory U and Appreciative Inquiry in an experiential way, I recently accepted Joke d’Haese's invitation to partake in a workshop for change facilitators organized by The Constellation in the south of the Netherlands, in Kerkrade.
The 3-day workshop took place exactly a week after the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13th 2015. In the context of this event, I could not have imagined a more uplifting and promising experience than attending this workshop facilitated by Joke d’Haese and Gemma van Voorst. I left the workshop with new hope, experiencing the promise of the strong human connection that emerges when applying the appreciative perspective for community building. I consider the vision and approach from The Constellation a powerful way to generate the kind of breakthroughs Scharmer & Kaufer refer to in the quote on top of this post.
The Constellation is a Belgian NGO that supports communities worldwide in responding to local challenges. This is what The Constellation says about their work: “In a world that needs to confront life challenges on a daily basis (i.e., HIV, TB, malaria, reproductive health, livelihood, climate change, peace & reconciliation), every community has the capacity to respond to such threats, to build a common vision, to act, and to adapt."
As you can read here, The Constellation is all about empowering local communities:
"Every community can become Life Competent: the 'state' where it is able to deal effectively with the threats and challenges that it faces. Global experiences reveal that local responses are a critical factor to achieve progress on life challenges. Local responses are the set of actions that communities take by themselves to address a certain concern, first of all using their own resources. These local responses can be facilitated.”
The facilitation approach of The Constellation developed in an organic way in global projects in developing coutries by a process of continuous finetuning of best practices. Projects run by facilitators of The Constellation are continuously evaluated in an appreciative way by using an instrument called ”After Experience Reflection”, which is a way to learn from each and every experience. Lessons learned are shared with other facilitations within the same community or transferred to other communities. Truly a learning organisation, The Constellation. Learning by pointing out what works well, and stressing what you would like to amplify. Exploring what can be improved with an open mind. I find it fascinating to discover aspects of Theory U and Appreciative Inquiry in the vision and approach of The Constellation.
The Constellation has clearly defined its vision on interacting with local communities. This vision is described in the acronym SALT that stands for “Stimulate, Appreciate, Learn, and Transfer. SALT is the DNA of the Constellation”. SALT als refers to “Support, Authentic, Link, Listen and Team.” The facilitators of The Constellation believe in the possibilities of people to solve their own problems. SALT directs the attention on what you would like to reinforce or encourage (stimulate, appreciate) and reminds us to share our learnings (learn, transfer).
During the weekend Joke and Gemma guided us through the Community Life Competence Process (CLCP), a cyclical model that is used to assist communities in tackling their challenges.
1. Who are we? (Our common humanity)
2. Who do we want to be? (Envision)
3. Where do we stand now? (Self-assess)
4. How do we get there? (Prioritze and plan for action)
6. What have we learned? (Share and learn)
No problem solving involved! Instead there is space for ‘what wants to be born’ (Scharmer), or in other words: the dream or vision. I found the first step in the process – describing what makes us human, describing the nature of humanity – intruiging. This first step creates connection between the people involved, because universal values like respect, authenticity, responsibility and altruism are emerging from the dialogue. From the preamble of “The Constellation Charter”:
"There is one condition to our journey: we must recognize that we are all human, moved by similar hopes and concerns. In our interactions with others, we leave behind our references to a world made of experts and uneducated people, clerics and lay persons, rich and poor, donors and recipients. We then become free to share our experience and to appreciate others."
What I really liked about the SALT way of working, was the step bridging dream and plan by describing 'practices'. When working with groups, I oftentimes find this a challenging step: how do you avoid get too much ‘down to earth’ too soon? How do you keep the spirit of the dream alive? During the weekend we explored so-called ‘practices’. ‘Practices’ describe core elements of the dream as if these happen right now, in clear language. By using these concise, tangible statements, the dream is specified without watering down the imagination of the participants. Subsequently the group assesses its current state by taking a close look at the practices: to what extent do we currently ‘live’ or ‘embody’ these practices as a community?
“The new in any system shows up first at the periphery”, Scharmer states. You could call Kerkrade, located near the border with Germany and Belgium a city ‘in the margin’, or a marginalised city. Not only because of its geographic location, but moreso because of the big transformation this area has been going through in the past decennia: the large monastery Rolduc closed (stronghold since the 12th century of the Vatican) and there was the closure of the coal mines.
Kerkrade became marginalised, lots of people, businesses and institution leaving the area. Instead of framing this as problematic, we focused on possibilities. “What is dieing, and what is wanting to be born?”, is the recurring question or red thread in Theory U material. During the weekend we were introduced to local civil initiatives in Kerkrade through so-called SALT-visits. These were promising initiatives, characterised by inclusion: offering local community members ways to participate and stay involved. We learned not to be distant when being a guest, but engaging in a personal dialogue. We discovered that the conversation became more personal by introducing ourselves a bit more at the start, and to show more of ourselves. We also learned the importance of apporaching everybody with regard and dignity, meeting on eye level, so to speak.
Scharmer and Kaufer wrote: “The good news is that the world has enormous unexploited potential in the form of inspired, intentional, and collective entrepeneurship. But we need to be much more methodical about tapping this dormant force to bring about global movements for good.”
With SALT and CLCP the network of facilitators from The Constellation have indeed discovered trusted ways to activate dormant potential of communities. By sharing success stories, stories of hope within the community of facilitators and with other communities, The Constellation is one of the compelling worldwide movements for positive global change.
With gratitude to all participants, and a special thank you to Gemma & Joke for embodying the SALT principles.
Amsterdam, December 15th 2015
(Miranda & Suse, two participants:)