What have we learned from the integration of our approach into other participatory approaches?

Constructive criticism is a great opportunity to become reflective, as individuals and as an organisation. It is a gift that helps us to learn, adapt and improve. Recently, within one of our cherished organisational partnerships, we were challenged by the suggestion that we are "too rigid". It led to some valuable discussion and reflection. I have shared a piece from this discussion below. 

..."Perhaps the Constellation comes across as rigid because we are solidly founded in SALT, and it is more than a value statement - we live and breathe it! But what others may not realise is that this is not just another methodology, it is a way of working. In fact it can underpin many approaches or methodologies, but it is, ultimately, our philosophy. SALT is how we work, and how we stimulate others to work. With this in mind, there are 2 interesting elements to our philosophy that we ought to consider, when we respond to such a statment:

  1.  Our way of working is appreciative. This means that we embrace approaches that are also appreciative. CLCP is the one we know and use. But what about other appreciative methodologies? We are also using AIC. Some of us have Salvation Army background, Appreciative Enquiry, ABCD and others.. So, the question is, how open are we to working outside of the CLCP, so long as we maintain our foundation in SALT? How far will we go?
  2. We value learning. This means that we, as coaches, members and as an organisation, are always reflecting, learning and adapting as we work with others. We have been given a gift - to "think outside the box of CLCP". So, are we being truly open to this lesson? What can we do to make the most of this opportunity to learn about ourselves?
  3. Have you applied elements of CLCP in your other work? Or in another project? How did it turn out?

Let's have a conversation!....."

Constellation travellers - Please share your thoughts! What have we learned from the integration of our approach into other participatory approaches?

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Dear Olivia, what a challenging question you brought to us! 

If what we are considering to start with is if we might be 'too rigid', I am afraid that we already have a big problem here, because in my understanding even 'a bit rigid' would be too much. 

As it was exposed here, it is important to make a difference between the approach and how individual coaches might be applying it. Specially at the beginning of our incursions in communities we might express a lot of concern by fear of shifting from the basics of the approach, fear of losing track of what we are doing and so coming back to the old habits (the cave man, as Antoine Saka Saka put it). So probably it might have the taste of some kind of rigidness.

My feeling here is that we need to keep a very subtle balance between the openness necessary to be able to listen to others ideas and learn from them and the basic respect for the principles that conform the backbone of this approach.

We all know that it is not easy to arrive to a level five in SALTiness. That is probably why sometimes we get too much attached to tools instead of weighing if our attitude is being SALTy, and this results in paying more attention to implementing the tools than getting into the spirit of the situation.

I am now starting to free myself a bit more in using the tools as tools that are excellent only if I let go of my wish of performing well.

I think that the more we apply CLCP and practice SALT, the more we become confident and so we are able to let of go of the need of grasping the results and getting attached to the tools. And I don't think either that WE, as an organization, are becoming rigid. I can feel how we collectively keep adapting and changing, which for me is a sign that we still believe that things are not 'consolidated', 'solid' or 'rigid'.

The balance between loose and tight (between opening up and sticking to the principles) is never in the same place so we need to be continuously assessing how much are we really protecting those principles or we are clinging to 'being right' and to established habits that prevent us from listening and learning.

Uf, I do not know if I made my point clear. Hope you get it right.

Thank you MariJo for your wise comments. You have reminded us of the difference between following tools by the book and truly understanding the "spirit" of the approach. You talk about the subtle balance between openness and respect for principles, and how this requires constant reflection, listening and learning. I suppose that is what we are doing now, so we can be happy we are on the right track!!

This is so NICE!! Its like traveling from where I live to the city. Different people in their respective vehicles travel at their own rate for different reasons. We are assured however as you say .".so we can be happy we are on the right track!!" that we are heading for the same goal (destination) and can be confident and proud that we are supporting each other along the journey. Thanks for stimulating this reflection, it is doing much more than I think we anticipated (^_^). Thanks too for all the input from ALL i.e on your behalf.

Hi Olivia,

I am from Constellation's Philippines country team- Pinoy Competence.

We feel that the dream process in CLCP has to be done with caution.
If we are requested by another group to use the CLCP for a research
and work with a community, we need to be assured of how long or how
far can the org sustain that dream?  Do we just let communities dream
and leave their dreams in the air?  What was the purpose in their
dreaming then? The partner org may just take it at that, put their
dream in the report, while we are stuck with the humans who had
dreamed that dream which is now in air.  What is the purpose of
stimulating if we cannot link to opportunities?

We bring this out because we screen requests for CLCP interventions.
But in the light of having to do an intervention with the community,
what can we offer?  I am thinking of a SWOT Analysis with problem
trees and solution trees.  the community identifies a problem that it
can solve.

Or can we ask them to dream a dream that it can attain?

Your thoughts are urgently needed as we have a partner coming in next
week. What CLCP intervention can we offer ?  It is for a research with
female sex workers. The researcher plans to give talks on HIV
awareness and go deeper through CLCP dream building.

Rituu and I just had a skype conversation and she shared with me that we can do a strengths tree, ask strength-based questions such as "What are you proud of?  What are you grateful for?"  The we can do the hearts of hopes and concerns. I think that is a wonderful idea.  It still will stimulate the group to be excited about themselves, appreciate what they have, hopefully we can link them to something so that they can on their own come up with self realized action plan - it really still needs polishing these ideas. 

Hai Olivia,

Thanks for the interesting reflections on constrictive critisism. I am Anthony working in CARE India and a member of India Competence Team. We have a project that strengthens community response to HIV/AIDS by strengthening community organisations and SALT as a way of working has been integrated to strengthen the community response to HIV/AIDS.

And I believe  we are very much flexible in applying CLCP. I think the coaches and salt teams do discuss about what went right and what went wrong and what needs to be done better through AAR. I am sure constructive feedback does come here into picture through AAR. The same way in the CLCP process, we do help the communities we work with to reflect on the WOW and when AAR is consistently done to monitor the progress.

SALT as a way of working is very important to lay foundation with the community we work with. Strength based dialogue, stimulation and appreciative inquiry help in building a strong bond with the community and as the work progresses, Facilitators and the community do reflect on what is going well and what is not going well. Hence I believe we are flexible and there is always a room for consutructive feedback through AAR and Self assessments. 
  
As part of our project in India, we work with 42 Community Based Organisations of Female Sex workers and we follow SALT as a way of working and do reflect on the progress and enable the community to provide constructive feedback. I prefer to use constructive feedback over constructive critisism as it is sounds positive. The caution here is that facilitator should enable the community to arrive at a constructive feedback rather than  giving the feedback himself.
 
Although we dont have sceintific evidence to prove the impact, CLCP played a significant role in strengthening community response in our project. To scale up CLCP, we need to create an evidence around impact and conduct more knowledge fairs.

I like this Athony (^_^). AAR was discussed here before and shows the significant benefit it can derive for the Facilitators. I encourage the communities with whom we work to get in the mode of doing this as well. The discussion in AAR and Self Assessment should be encouraged in a candid honest manner with respect for each other.

Thanks Autry

 

Hi Anthony. Thanks for a really interesting response. Like Autry says below, you have highlighted the important role that AAR plays to help facilitators to constantly monitor and adapt how they are working. 

I was particularly struck by your comment that "that facilitator should enable the community to arrive at a constructive feedback rather than  giving the feedback himself". This is a useful reminder, not only for communities, but for coaches, who's role it is to stimulate the facilitators to continuously reflect on their own competency and impact. 

You suggested that we build our understanding of impact and capture more evidence of results. What would you suggest would be the best way to go about this? 

Thanks again!

Olivia

Olivia and others,

Great to see this conversation! As a partner working with Constellation and facilitating the use of CLCP as a tool to support a systematic and measurable process of community change through PAR I think the question that needs to be answered is what it actually means in practice to work with SALT principles and values?

I saw your recent discussion on concerns versus problems - it seems that a concern approach is within SALT values while a problem approach is not? If this is the case then how can you overcome a potential 'violation' of SALT principles when in partnership with a program or organization that might use problem trees within a strength-based approach?

Values and principles are subjective - we each define strength-based differently so when it comes to working in partnership some adjusting language and working towards a common shared understanding for the shared partnership goal is important. 

It would seem from the comments that it is very possible that CLCP can be integrated into other participatory approaches - as a partner I would suggest what is needed is a shared vision - this is not just about a CLCP vision of success and how to integrate it into others - but one that brings the different approaches together such that from day 1 we see the integration - what emerges might look a bit different to SALT and CLCP but can potentially hold the same, and more importantly, shared values!

Cheers,

Marina

Dear O,
My input - We do not seek to substitute but rather - first understand and appreciate their way of working and together explore how SALT as a way of working and a way of – thinking (DNA of CLCP) can be integrated into their existing approach. In the journey of integrating, we continuously apply and reflect along the way on how we see SALT/CLCP being useful? What is different now?? How can we strengthen our work through SALT? Etc
We constantly share that - CLCP distinctiveness - strengths based with all of its steps – are stimulating and enhancing ownership through working from strengths!

The Zambia AAS Competence (a RinD) as one example among many others has taught has that when communities envision about their own living reality or an issue they identify with. The Dream becomes less over ambitious if the question(s) for dream building is well context-ed.
The self assessment - becomes equally important and particularly in this research programme because - a window for in-depth analysis is opened to help explore issues or dig deep through a community conversation that brings in new insights and shared knowledge through critical reflection by the people that know their situation.
Action planning - when communities identify their priority focus areas - key activities are named to help them move from current level to a desired or target level. We see from experience - communities name a mix of actions (some they can manage within own means but also others that will require external support) facilitators support the community or group to isolate the two categories. E.g. In Mapungu, Kalabo District - communities doing Fish Conservation and Crop diversification highlighted several actions - develop fish conservation by laws, sensitize communities on appropriate 3inch fishing nets, fish ban in some months of the year , initiate alternative livelihood improvement activities like poultry, vegetable gardening to ease pressure on the fish resource. Seek support from local partners around farmer capacity building on new farming practices to boost yield and manage crop diseases that affect productivity. All this named by the communities themselves but also the programme acknowledges their essence – together identify Research opportunities to help address (complementarily) the problems the communities identify during the action implementation.
In this context - interventions or partners can easily identify opportunities for support based on the action plans. For me this window is significant as - we come in through invitation rather than an expert mentality (imposition) for solving ‘their’ problems through interventions we deem fit for them.

Coming closer home - During the Great Lakes initiatives against AIDS, worked closed with two Networks per Country - PLHIV, Long Haul TRUCK Drivers as well as sex worker. In Mlolongo truck stop, we build a truck stop facilitation team that constantly began to do SALT. SALT visits turned things around - the existing VCT centre was running 4-5 voluntary test per day, in one single SALT visit - the no of Truckers seeking to know their status went up(over 60 truckers were getting tested per day)
Going back to the Community named actions and perhaps after in-depth discussion around what makes the truckers and sex workers more vulnerable and at risk. They named many actions and among them were - participate in conversation around HIV and AIDS in the strategic centers along the transport corridor to create more awareness among ourselves and further learn how to prevent the infection among the trucking community. To the sex workers, they said - we get more than three clients in a day. We do not want to subject ourselves to any STI risk including HIV. We have children that we would want to continue to care for. Some of us want to learn how to best use a condom and we can share with our partners too…. we buy condoms but that eats into our profit. We would appreciate if we can be getting Condom supply at this point. We too share the extras with our colleagues when they run out of supply. We never want to gamble with our lives - sex workers in Mlolongo truck stop.
In the light of this request interwoven as an action point by the sex workers - the Ministry of Health Machakos - Level 5, seconded one of their Prevention staff to work with the Union and facilitate the supply of Condoms.
The VCT increased their staff and also began to relate better with their clients. They see the facility as their place where they can visit at any time and seek advice. They also play the link of other clients in their industry for support.

Warm wishes and thanks for the opportunity to contribute.
Onesmus
Kenya

From the comments and also my personal experience it clearly shows that the CLCP is far from rigid.

Like April Foster, I too wonder if the reflection about the process being too 'rigid' has multiple layers, probably the recipient was unwilling to open themselves to experiencing this new process but whatever the case may be that comment was made and we appreciate it, now there is room for improvements.


I must say kudos to those who have sought opportunities to integrating CLCP effectively with others because what I know and have seen prior to my introduction of CLCP is that Organizations or the “Pipers” ^_^ are more aware with methodologies that deals directly with the issue at hand and the best way to rectify it.
It goes in a pattern like this, these are our communities in need, and here are their problems, what strategy should be used to help fix those problems and how much money should we invest? It’s like a business transaction being discussed. We know that WASH, SWAT, ABCDEFG… etc. are very great tool but most of all we know that it’s NOT about going into a community and show them how to fix their problem.

And these are the typical situations / challenges that we the coaches, facilitators and strong believers of the CLCP might/usually face when we go all out to seek opportunities to introduce CLCP because it’s different. It’s not that popular and like YERUVA ANTHONY REDDY said “we don’t have scientific evidence to prove the impact”, and finally it’s unlike any other methodologies that are widely accepted and that is why it’s so important for us to be able to introduce our process effectively and with our saltiness. Like MariJo said “it’s not easy to arrive to a level five of SALTiness, but we must weigh if our attitude is being salty.”

And as CLCP users our first evidence base should be ourselves because we should first apply these aspects to our own lives before rushing off and trying to introduce it to other people lives, because CLCP is not JUST a different Methodology and I will go as far as saying it’s a way of life, this process is not just using and incorporating tools and teaching people to do things, it goes beyond that, well I believe it goes beyond that. CLCP strikes an individual sprit, it deals with an individual way of thinking which changes ones way of working, it changes their attitude and in turn changes the person lifestyle but it should be used correctly to be effective but that does not mean it’s rigid.

WHAT IT MEANS is that we as coaches, facilitators and believers in the CLCP need to remember that we are our own participant and sometimes we need to hear a comment like that, to bring us back to the mirror so we can pull ourselves together so we can competently and effectively introduce CLCP to the world and we can all agree with Michael Mc Garrell the world needs it. ^_^

jus my little contribution <3 

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