Phil's Blog (49)

A perspective on SALT from Assam

Here is a gift from our colleagues in Assam. 

“We begin to change when we realize that we have the capacity and the strength within ourselves to overcome our challenges. When this happens, we convert those challenges into opportunities. SALT helps us to see the world from this perspective.” 

This short text captured for me the power of SALT. 

My thanks to Ashok. 


Added by Phil on September 7, 2018 at 11:45am — 2 Comments

If you want to understand what the Constellation in 35 seconds....

In my last post, I mentioned Usa. I am sure that there are many people who do not know Usa. She has been a source of inspiration to many people in the Constellation.  

Here is a video clip that I recorded of Usa some time ago that explains why. I use it to explain to people why the Constellation does what it does: …


Added by Phil on June 30, 2017 at 3:00pm — 1 Comment

Two questions for Usa

A reflection on Chapter 6 of our shared dream

“What makes us human?”

In the book, Jean-Louis says that his exploration with people leads him to conclude, “We are human because we are similar, we are proud of our origins and we aspire to a better life for ourselves and our families. We are human because we love our country and our community, because we want to live together in peace, because we love nature and want to protect it, and…


Added by Phil on June 30, 2017 at 2:41pm — 1 Comment

A question for Usa

A reflection on Chapter 5 of our shared dream

“Orgasm is not a crime”

“Whenever I am about to fall into the trap of judging people, opening the floodgates of anger, I often think of what Usa told me that day, ‘Keep appreciating strengths. What else is there?’ “

I have often thought of the advice of Usa, “Keep appreciating strengths. What else is there?” Well, what else is there? Is Usa saying that…


Added by Phil on May 4, 2017 at 1:44pm — 7 Comments

Things keep on getting better

A reflection on Chapter 4 of our shared dream

“No learning unless you act.”

Here is a short extract from Chapter 4 of ‘What makes us human?’

 “To reassure themselves about the superiority of their way of life, Westerners are content to accept negative representation of poorer countries by their media.”

I want to give a different perspective to Jean-Louis here.

If Westerners are prepared to accept a negative…


Added by Phil on April 11, 2017 at 7:48pm — No Comments

Hans Rosling

Hans Rosling was a Swedish physician, academic, statistician, and public speaker. He was the Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute] and was the co-founder and chairman of the Gapminder Foundation. He held presentations around the world, including several TED Talks in which he promoted the use of data to explore development issues. He died on 7 February 2017.



Added by Phil on February 24, 2017 at 8:05pm — 1 Comment

“Before I was on a high table, now I am in a circle.”

Reflections on our shared dream, "What makes us human?"

Chapter 3: Before I was a radio: now I am a recorder

My title is not metaphorical. Jean-Louis describes a visit to a group of sex workers in Matadi in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Everyone there was expecting another lesson from experts and the seating had been arranged accordingly. Under the shade of a mango tree, a high table was covered with a beautiful sheet and was enhanced with a bouquet of flowers. The chairs…


Added by Phil on February 24, 2017 at 4:28pm — 1 Comment

The essence of the Constellation

This video clip comes from part of a presentation that Jean-Louis gave in Ferney-Voltaire for the launch of the book about the story of our shared dream, 'What makes us human?'

Here is a slightly edited transcript of the video: 

"I want to talk about the essence of what we are trying to do. For this we use the acronym SALT;…


Added by Phil on February 10, 2017 at 1:38pm — 3 Comments

Reflections on our shared dream, "What makes us human?" (2)

A reflection on Chapter 2 of "What makes us human?"

“How much will you pay us?”

r“You may ask how we find all these wonderful people who are now part of the Constellation. Here is the secret. All of us in the Constellation are ordinary people, but because we refuse to consider money as the main engine that drives us, we have learned to discover our wonderful strengths and nurture them as we learn and grow. We dream of a system in which all of us have the opportunity to use…


Added by Phil on February 6, 2017 at 12:44pm — 4 Comments

Reflections on our shared dream, "What makes us human?"

Chapter 1: AIDS Competence should spread faster than the virus. 

In 1997-1998, Jean-Louis spent 18 months in Phayao, a province in northern Thailand. In a few short sentences, here is what he learned.

“It is necessary to provide services to prevent AIDS, to care for it, and to reduce its impact, but these services are not sufficient. The key resides in the actions of individuals, of families, and of communities in responding to the scourge. AIDS Competence means communities…


Added by Phil on January 30, 2017 at 9:56pm — 2 Comments

The difference difference makes

Learning from ‘What makes us human?’

From the Introduction to ‘What makes us human?’

“(Appreciation means) that we finally stop putting people into categories and enjoy the discovery of each other’s strengths: city and slum dwellers, saints and sinners, straights and all the others, the protected and the vulnerable, natives and…


Added by Phil on January 17, 2017 at 2:47pm — 2 Comments


As a way of introducing people to Jean-Louis’ book ‘What makes us human?’ people are being recorded talking about their experience of SALT in their lives. For good or ill, Anu Sieberk recorded my contribution this morning. In it, I talk about how the idea of ‘Appreciation’ has altered my life. You can see it at…


Added by Phil on January 11, 2017 at 10:00pm — No Comments

What makes us human?

Jean-Louis’ book is now out in English. The title of the book is ‘What makes us human?’ We have used this challenging question for a long time in the Constellation and it is, indeed, a fine title for the book. I don’t know if I should say this, but what I like even more is the sub-title for the book, ‘The story of a shared dream’.

The Constellation is truly the story of a shared dream. I suspect that for each of us there was a time when we saw that what the Constellation was…


Added by Phil on January 9, 2017 at 12:42pm — No Comments

SALT: T is for Trust too

As facilitators, we often talk about the consequences of applying SALT with a group. But what happens when SALT is the way of working within a group and you are part of that group? How does it feel to be part of such a group? I would like to give some personal reflections on this experience.

What happens when you deliberately support, appreciate, learn and transfer AND when you feel supported, you feel appreciated, you feel that others recognise that you have something that they can…


Added by Phil on January 29, 2016 at 4:36pm — 2 Comments

"Social services are broken. How we can fix them."

I would like to recommend a Ted Talk by Hilary Cottam called ‘Social Services are broken. How we can fix them.’

If you don’t have 17 minutes to listen to the whole video, try the first 5 minutes.

If you don’t have 5 minutes, you can read the transcript of the…


Added by Phil on January 22, 2016 at 1:22pm — 1 Comment

SALT, the expert and the facilitator

In the Constellation, we make a distinction between the expert and the facilitator. When we are an expert, we recognise our own authority to diagnose the problem and to give a solution. When we listen and reflect, we become part of a conversation where we can support and appreciate without judgement.

In the Constellation, we do not diagnose and we do not provide a solution. We believe in the capacity of others to find their own solution to their own problem. (And therefore we must…


Added by Phil on January 15, 2016 at 4:16pm — 2 Comments

What is a Knowledge Fair? What is a Knowledge Fair?

During 2013, a small group of people worked on a project to organise the stories that appear on this site so that we can learn more effectively from the experiences of Local Response described here. These experiences sit at the heart of Knowledge Fairs. We organise the content into what we call Knowledge Assets. This note explains a little more about Knowledge Fairs and Knowledge Assets. At the end, there is a link to more material and examples. 

The idea of…


Added by Phil on January 31, 2014 at 1:25pm — 2 Comments

Dare to know: the dream of Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant is a German philosopher who died more than 200 years ago. He taught us how we should seek to live our lives and I find that what he said then is relevant for how I live my life today.

Here is the dream of Immanuel Kant. It seems to me that he is talking about Local Response. And his dream is a dream for the Constellation. I shall carry it with me into 2014.

"Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use…

Added by Phil on December 31, 2013 at 3:16pm — 4 Comments

Silent Transformation

This story comes the Global Learning Festival held in Chennai in 2012. It is told by Aniruddhan Vasudevan. You can find it and many other stories told at the Learning Festival at…


Added by Phil on December 20, 2013 at 1:30pm — No Comments

The power of the learning cycle

This was told to me by Ms. Charkaporn Pandontong of Ta Wang Tan in Ta Tum Sub-district, Pa Sang District, Lamphun, Thailand:

"When we did the Self Assessment 2 years ago, we found that for practices 1 and 3 (the first one about raising awareness and the third one is about linking care and prevention) our score was rather low. In the analysis we thought that this…


Added by Phil on December 13, 2013 at 1:36pm — 2 Comments


The Constellation: who are we

The Constellation video, where we journey in less then 2 minutes from space, through nature, to villages, in homes and back while exploring what the Constellation stands for. Thank YOU for being part of it. 

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