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SALT as a foundational stone for  PRA Yes or No ?

 Commitment to Paolo Friere's pedagogy of the oppressed and his education theory were detractors to a comprehensive understanding of SALT. It seemed natural to relate SALT with other practices of community engagement. The first SALT workshop in Karachi (2020, 5 days, with two community visits) triggered a query: how is SALT different from the participatory approaches predicated on Paolo's Freire's vision of social transformation, and the role of adult education? The answer was not as apparent as perhaps was needed, because the workshop focused on SALT and not on any comparison. How SALT contribute to the other practices of community engagement, was not an issue with SALT. How its new learners were to integrate it in their practices of community engagement was their issue?  So a journey to understand SALT started, with more reflexivity than discussions. One had to curious enough to embark on this journey. The many who came to the first workshop and then never returned were perhaps not curious enough.

 

The initial learning from the first SALT workshop in Karachi was simple: seek to know community's collective responses to collective issues; ask them about humanity; ask them what they did of which they are proud; and ask them to share their vision of their community in 10 years' time. But the history of SALT, as it rose from a focus on HIV AIDs to discovering that the path lay in an ownership of issue by the community; left another concept to chew on – ownership. Conceptually it made a lot of sense, but the how of achieving this was a challenge.  Moreover, all along be able to appreciate was a significant addition. I would tell other SALT learners that  I cannot give them a  check list of appreciation. You have to have an open heart with which you observe what is around you as you engage people with SALT and see what you like.  All this was done verbally, so SALT was a verbal interaction but with a depth that connected its users; and it made them move to take action. This was interesting. SALT triggered action, but the zest for action left something behind. It was not being used to galvanize other community members. In Mirpur Sakro ( a sub division of Thatta district adjacent to Karachi) a two hour SALT experience with a group of male villagers could not get them to share the key questions with other members of their village. Some members of the group just raced ahead for action for greater good of their villages. It seemed a bit haphazard, as villagers raced ahead of the SALT facilitator. Other experiences of using SALT as a set of key questions yielded similar results. Important to note that at this stage, self-assessment tool and action plans were not made. SALT was more than a set of questions, as it showed that those who responded to the question became active, but a challenge emerged in preparing those who were to raise the SALT questions. These were to be the facilitators, who struggled to be so. In this journey reading Jean Louis's book What makes us Human, was very help.  A very reader friendly book, it wove stories to layout SALT. Its great example of a health worker saying, I used to be a radio, then I became a recorder, was frequently used.  

 

PRA (participatory rural assessment, or Participatory reflection and analysis as renamed by me ) offered visual tools for analysis by the community. Here SALT and PRA were seen to be on the same page. Both were committed to the centrality of the respondents. Thus, in the Indus Health Network,  SALT was wedded to a group of PRA tools – e.g. social mapping; illness matrix, to name some. The PRA tools helped set a pathway for communities to collectively become conscious of their own socio cultural realities. This reflected Paolo Freire's learning cycle, which entailed the process of Reflection, Analysis and Action. In my experience, PRA tools followed the SALT approach. As we focused on the impact of SALT exercises (what is humanity, what are you proud of) a poignant discussion took place on the difference between (1) what makes you human, and (2) what is humanity. There was a curiosity to document the difference in outcome of these two exercises, but these analysts were not practioners of SALT. It soon became clear, that the former (i.e 1) brings attention to self, while the other focused more on thoughts. Hmmm… SALT was more interested in people becoming more conscious of who they are. This is step one of the CLCP learning cycle, but CLCP was a bit late in coming to Karachi. However, once it arrived (after some deliberations on the relationship between SALT and CLCP) it stayed and found a comfortable niche. Interestingly, CLCP was not mentioned in the first SALT workshop. In retrospect, it is OK, as the first workshop focused on the process of SALT.

 

After the above preamble of sorts, one could ask: so why is SALT to be the foundation of PRA ? One reasons is obvious now. PRA focuses on the centrality of the oppressed/communities, and offers a process for their transformation and this is nested in the education theory of Paolo Friere. People are to be educated for liberation, and the process is the cycle of reflection, analysis and action. SALT is simpler and very straight forward. It is a strength based approach and seeks to have the oppressed/communities recognize their strength and build on it. Thus, despite the conceptual base of SALT and PRA being the same, a difference yet prevails. A difference that is to be appreciated, as learning SALT after knowing PRA is somewhat simpler than learning PRA after knowing SALT. This could be debatable, but appears to be so for me. Learning SALT became easier because of the entrenchment in Paolo Freire's thoughts and the participatory methodology tools that emanated from his thinking. (See 4 volumes of Training for Transformation). Without SALT PRA loses a base, with SALT as its foundation it stands on firmer ground

 

 

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Comment by Lakshmi Venkatraman on February 15, 2024 at 8:10am

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog. Helped me understand SALT more. I especially liked what you said about SALT "the former (i.e 1) brings attention to self, while the other focused more on thoughts". I certainly need to work on this more.

 I would like to know how you think we can use SALT to galvanise the community, will using the CLCP help?

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on February 10, 2024 at 10:52am

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