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Phil Forth has been doing some very helpful work to debrief various coaches after Learning Events to distill important learning about the process of Community Life Competence.  (Thanks, Phil!)  During our conversation - reflecting on my recent visit to Uganda - I was challenged to think again about our ways of working as The Constellation.
I wondered whether - particularly in our formal partnership work - we were still authentically practising the behaviour of a facilitation team - that is, to stimulate and learn from local responses - or whether we were being subtly influenced towards being trainers in CLCP, albeit using participatory, facilitative approaches.
My experience has been that we will offer to deliver an orientation to the full CLCP process over a few days, usually through an in-house workshop process with a few SALT visits.  After that, coaches leave and some time passes while the group takes some steps to implement CLCP.  Often we get to do a brief follow-up visit.  But, essentially, our early Learning Events have the objective to deliver content on CLCP and "train" people to implement it.
And, understandably so: this is often the best model for delivery we can employ, given the time and budgetary constraints of our partnership agreements.But, without being too idealistic, is it always consistent with our values for the accompaniment of local communities through the facilitation of their local response for care and change? 
My worry is that, as we get more and more established in this routine, and as our content - our product - becomes more defined and refined, that we might slowly drift towards being trainers. Still appreciative, still avoiding being the expert, still open to learning, etc.  But tending towards imparting a set of skills or tools to our participant-audience. 
 I don’t know enough of how the process is working out in the rest of the world, so this is only based on my experience and the way I’ve seen the process designed in collaboration with partners. The CLCP material itself still feels distinctive and innovative (and still revolutionary in the interventionist-dominated development sector), but the modality for delivering that content risks becoming more and more traditional.
Over time, might we cease to be stimulators – practising the work of a facilitation team - and instead simply become trainers in the Community Life Competence process?
I don’t think we’re necessarily there yet – I don’t know – but I think it’s an issue around which we need to be very vigilant
What do you think?  Thanks for your help.

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Wow Ricardo, this has really got me thinking.......

I can comment on the issue at the point of Transfer, but not so much for long-term implementation of partnerships.

Here are my initial thoughts on Transfer:

It's funny you know, I have been "negotiating" a partnership this week and have found this uncomfortable urge to package what we do in language and terms that the partner is used to - i.e. "we'll offer training for your people to become facilitators of CLCP".... This is because the journey to really grasp SALT and some of the Principles of our WoW can be a long journey for some. The length of that journey shouldn't be a barrier to collaboration.  

Another example- perhaps there is a champion for The Constellation whom we are connecting with as a potential partner, but he/she has to appeal to their seniors in head-office, in order to get support for the partnership. As The Constellation, we ought to support that person to do this, we ought to provide them with what they need, which may be a re-framing of our offering.

Now, this means that our way of working is essentially being diluted as we try to bridge a gap with those for whom it is an entirely new concept. Is this a bad thing? Possibly. But I also see some benefits:

1. The newly "trained" facilitators will pay it forward; i.e. they'll accompany and stimulate communities through the CLC process, and, in turn, we'll accompany them. We are stimulating those who stimulate others. It's spreads like a tree.....

2. We can connect with new partners through commonly understood language and ideas to get a conversation going, but then be bold and courageous in challenging our partners to embrace a new way of working. We have to be transparent about who we are. At the same time, we have to be able to speak the language of others. This will open doors to a wider and more diverse range of partners. Everyone benefits from the diversity of experience.

Being bold and courageous, even if it costs us partnerships, is what makes The Constellation authentic and genuine. We have some non-negotiables which are exactly that - not negotiable.

At the same time, let's be flexible and agile, able to provide what the partners invite us to provide - even if it is training - so we can continue to share SALT and connect local responses.

Excited to hear from some coaches on their experiences in other countries.....


Dear Ricardo,

I think you're right about that. The risk is always great to become a trainer more than a facilitator in the community.

However, our experience in the DRC demonstrates that it is better to start on good bases from the start with the communities. With us, during training, we say clearly that new facilitators to the fight against the problems of development that is their business and not directly ours. The SALT visits we do ensons are organized and facilitated by themselves. From the outset, we are only guides. This will greatly help us.

In his daily work, RDCCompétence (secretariat) assists local teams of facilitation and not communities. These are accompanied by local teams. We stimulated in Kinshasa for example, "consultations" that are focus groups with local organizations (churches, schools, NGOs, ...) apply SALT, discuss and share the lessons learned during the implementation their action plans. They meet once a month and invite the Secretariat RDCCompétence to come see the progress, to share experiences and connect them with other resources enabling them to advance.

I hope this can help you.

Good luck to you.


Thanks Ricardo and Olivia for these thoughts, which resonate with our journey with communities and organisations over so many years. 

I was reminded again during the recent visit in Guyana about the compelling nature of SALT, and how 1 SALT visit can do the work of 10 training sessions.  We find again and again that people even refer to the whole process as SALT not CLCP.  Why?  Because this is what resonates with them in terms of 'being human' 'seeing strengths' - and for the Constellation I believe what brings life to the package of tools we offer. 

There has been an underlying discussion within the Constellation for several years about deepening the understanding of local response.  This is the context from which SALT originated when the Constellation started.  SALT -  the way it is introduced and practised currently in the Constellation opens up the WOT and WOW of the facilitation team, but I dont often see that we help facilitators explore the context of local response in which we practise SALT.  Our AAR's are more often  focused on 'how did we behave as a SALT team?' but less often on 'how is this local response maturing?  Questions such as 'how many self-assessments has a community done?' are not sufficient and I know we are going for something much deeper than that with our approach. 

There is a progression of response that can indicate how 'competent' a commmunity is, and we can watch for and stimulate that behaviour.  (eg systematic home visits, neighbourhood conversations, community counseling, community measurement, transfer).   Our package of tools sits inside this environment but it doesn't define it.   

By our own definition we exist to 'stimulate and connect local responses'.  If we analysed the time we actually spend in the local response context when we are transferring the approach to others it may help us to reflect on whether we need to adjust so that we are more intentionally practising what we preach.

Our 'package' is important but our 'practise' is what distinquishes us from others.  

So, personally I would like to see us as the Constellation this year define our understanding of local response more clearly, mentor the coaches pool in the dimensions of that local response and then deepen how we stimulate that local response as the core business of the Constellation.  

For me that is the best safe-guard of our behaviour as facilitation teams.

Will look forward to hearing others thoughts on this....thanks for opening the door!


I like this conversation because it resonates with the conflict I have experienced engaging with partners. A recent one I shared with April  was traumatic! But there havve been good outcomes from most of them.

We work in contexts where people have strong traditions and this is compounded by agendas organizations or individuals may wish to further when we get invited. Then there is the pressure of 'quick fix' where we are expected to deliver this wonder drug and leave because that is how people have always wanted to work even if it didn't work. I find that I want to make the most of every opportunity. Go in there and keep focussed. Be SALT - practice what you preach in conversation and in action. Demostrate respect for the local response, enforce a strength based approach at a personal level in all you do however limited the time. At the initial stage, time provided is limited. But I have found that you get called back again and again when people see what we offer is different. JICA did some work with KCT last year and they are back. And this was KCT's experience with FPFK and TENWEK in Kenya. Meble and I did some work with an international leading sports and development organization and they were back within less than 6 months just to mention a few!

Alice and others:

Skills and successful face-to-face practices are exhibited among the 200 brave Africans who communicate with excellence in the new, 2012 grassroots film on DVD that can be mailed cost-free to you and other around Earth who would us it.  More about the 65-min film and DVD is at:


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