Connecting local responses around the world
Our Reflection for 2015
Communities are messy. They have to be otherwise they would be organisations. An organisation is a member of a community; either defined by place, association or other kinds of identity. Yet many organisations are established to organise a community; to serve it or to change it in some way. Hence, a part sets the agenda for the larger whole. In a community there are usually several such organisations; formal and informal with an agenda.
We are such an organisation and if we are to achieve our agenda of social mobility for disadvantaged young people and their families, the very first thing we need to do is to have an appreciation and an authentic respect for the nature of community and the space we have chosen to work in. Community is a space with a common identity and yet a space where many different identities co-exist; sometimes peacefully and sometimes not.
A step toward more humanity requires us to constantly ask ourselves if this peace is achieved through the strict containment or the joyful celebration of differences. We must humbly appreciate that we are part of a larger whole and the sum of the parts can only be more than the whole if we have enlightened partnerships with others. The type of partnerships that believe, “In our differences we grow; in our sameness we connect.”
In the spirit of SALT, we nurtured the space for partnerships to emerge. These partnerships were stimulated by the following questions:
How can neighbours work together to support single-parent families with young children?
How can families become involved in their children’s education in ways that contribute to their success?
What can we do as neighbours to keep our children and youth away from drugs?
What can we do to get youths to attend school?
How to stop youths loitering & disturbing residents in the neighbourhood?
Nurturing this space was a constant application of SALT not just in a group setting but with individuals and organisations during incidental and formal meetings as well as during outreach, research, forum theatre, social activities and after experience reflections.
It is not our differences that tear us apart but our inability to appreciate them. Genuine appreciation of differences requires a willingness from all to be influenced when participating in a discussion. Often minor adjustments based on mutual respect, where there is learning and openness to other perspectives, enable people from different backgrounds to acknowledge their sameness and to strengthen their connections. SALT can be an effective mind-set and practice that improve people’s ability to live with their differences.
Our differences have created a fractured world and peace is more often than not a result of strict containment where people define their territories and build communities along their sameness. A step toward more humanity means that we must always be willing to learn how to connect with those who are different and to celebrate our differences; not just across territories but within them.
As a practice, SALT is about appreciating differences as strengths, listening to learn, listening to link and most importantly, transferring the insights into a context for personal and collective change to happen. With practice it becomes a habit of the mind and as a mind-set, SALT means coming to terms with the fact that we are also a “difference” that threatens the peace in communities and our larger world. As part of the problem, we have a responsibility to be part of the solution and it begins with our willingness to see, appreciate, learn and think how we can facilitate change toward more humanity. “In our differences we grow; in our sameness we connect” is not just a theme but an essential call to action for a peaceful world where people lead meaningful and joyful lives.