3 ways of introducing SALT, in the Netherlands

After the Oxfam/Novib-supported visit of the Dutch team led by the Togetherness Foundation to learn about SALT and its application by the Interfaith Network on HIV/AIDS in Thailand, Norwegian Church Aid, and the Constellation in February, the Thai team conducted a 5-day return visit to the Netherlands in May to share the approach with more people and to explore with their Dutch partners how the process may be apply in the Dutch contexts.

The big challenge (and learning opportunity) for the Thai team was to introduce SALT and the AIDS Competence Process a number of times in differing circumstances and time slots, and to do it in the Thai language with translation. The time available for such sessions ranged from 30 minutes to 1 day. However, the team had planned back in Chiangmai to do it in a participatory method rather than using a powerpoint, and to focus on the way of thinking and way of working rather than methods and tools. It was designed that the ACP diagramme be presented to provide the overview of the ACP for each session, and to add more exercises as time would allow. Each session benefited from brief introductory messages in English and occasional interjections in Dutch from members of the Dutch team who co-ordinated and hosted the session/day. In each session, brochures on the Constellation were distributed and references were made to the Constellations Social Network on Ning (www.aidscompetence.ning.com) and the Blended Learning modules on the AIDS Competence Process. For every session, Bastiaan Verberne of Mexit, who helped co-ordinate the event at the Dutch end, administered a quick evaluation by giving a sheet of evaluation questions for participants to provide their comments on the session.


Micro-SALT (30 mins)

For the micro-SALT session such as presentation for the Board members of the Church Council in Amersfoort, time allowed for only a quick round of introduction of everyone present, before a short introduction of the HIV/AIDS situation in Thailand especially stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) in the early days, how INHAT responded to the challenge, and how the ACP helped improve their response. This was followed by a concise presentation of the ACP diagramme, and a brief reflection and discussion. One facilitator and one interpreter were needed for the session.

Mini-SALT (2-3 hrs)

For the mini-SALT of 2-3 hours, such as the session with Serve the City staff and volunteers in Amsterdam and with youth in Rotterdam, the session began with a round of introduction of everyone present, each one presenting not only their name but also what they were proud of about themselves and about their work, to establish rapport and break the ice. After a quick discussion of “Are we human? Why do we think we’re human? We are human because..”, we introduced the ACP diagramme started with the way of thinking and explaining community strengths, followed by introduction of SALT as the way pf working.

As time did not allow for an actual SALT visit in the field, we designed a SALT visit in the meeting room, using participants as ‘community’. We asked participants to pair up and take turns sharing a personal experience (either their own or someone they knew, hence a true story that they could talk about in detail) of a crisis or a serious problem, and how they managed to overcome it. The exercise enabled each person to practice listening and learning, appreciating and analyzing, sharing/stimulating/supporting, and in some cases linking and transferring. At the same time it enabled everyone to see that everybody had capacities for solving their own problems in their own way. We wrapped up the exercise by linking SALT as the way of working with the way of thinking that focused on personal/ community strengths and capacities instead of problems. We also briefly explained the concept and practice of SALT visit and gave a list of other tools, as well as encouraged participants to visit Ning and Blended Learning in order to learn more about the approach.

The Thai facilitators and interpreters paired up to facilitate each section/exercise of the session.

One-day SALT for Mexit staff and partners

For the one-day exposure to SALT for Mexit staff and NGO partners, we built on the mini-SALT outline but make it more participatory. The personal introduction focused on our hopes and concerns. For the “Are we human? Why do we think we’re human? We are human because..” exercise, we divided participants into small groups to discuss the questions before sharing with the larger group. We also added the photo exercise in introducing the way of thinking, so that participants could work in small groups to explore and reflect on each of the 5 community strengths through selected pictures/photos. In this way, participants made their own definitions and descriptions of each strength instead of hearing it from the facilitator.

Again, time did not allow for an actual SALT visit in the field, so we again did a SALT visit in the meeting room, using participants as ‘community’. We asked participants to form small groups of 3-4 persons and take turns sharing a personal experience (either their own or someone they knew, hence a true story that they could talk about in detail) of a crisis or a serious problem, and how they managed to overcome it. We then had a good discussion on how people coped with crisis and found their own solutions, and what made a safe environment to share a story about crises and solutions, which can be summarized as follows:

How people coped with crisis and found their own solutions:

- have self-confidence, believe in yourself
- believe that every problem has an end
- ignore triggers and the negatives; focus on the positives
- reach out to other people for guidance and support
- focus on the goal
- tell myself “You can do it!”, motivate myself
- get good information
- live in the moment
- have social support
- accept, then move on
- “you need life experience, to grow”

“Everybody has their own time and ways to do things, and take ownership of their own solutions”

What makes a safe environment to share a story about crises and solutions?

- make time for each other
- look at each other
- listen attentively
- feeling equal, everyone has to share
- first, have an exercise which helps people open their heart
- others show acknowledgement and appreciation e.g. nod, listen, make eye contact, express understanding/ acceptance, give encouragement

The discussion helped everyone to see clearly that everybody had capacities for solving their own problems in their own way, so it helped us wrap up the exercise more smoothly in linking SALT as the way of working with the way of thinking that focused on personal/ community strengths and capacities instead of problems.

Having a whole day allowed us more time to introduce the methods and tools. So, in addition to the SALT visit, we also explained more about other tools and spent more time talking about our resources such as the Constellation’s web site, Ning, and Blended Learning. There was some time for discussion before we did an After Action Review at the end of the day, and closed with an appreciation exercise when everyone expressed appreciation to everybody else by writing short appreciative messages on sheets of paper taped to everybody’s backs.


What participants said during/after training at Mexit:

“My hope is everyone’s unique character, competences, etc. will be appreciated by others and put to maximum use”

“This is very useful. Very inspiring. I will have to think how I can apply it in the Dutch context”

“The photo exercise is very powerful. It can also be easily applied in my work.”

“It makes me think that many times we went too fast. We have to make the time, to connect with people, to listen, to go back to the basics”

“I realize that, in our work, we have to make more time to share. I like the exercise in which we talked about crisis and how we coped. It enabled us to tell our story, and to listen to others. It created an environment in which we felt safe enough to share”

“What I learn from the session is you need to step out of your comfort zone sometimes. With a real open mind. To reflect and review your beliefs and values. It leads you back to the basics, to see others as equals”

“What I learn from today is we need to take more time. We are used to do it too quickly. We all have lived several decades, it’s not possible to change our way of thinking in just a short while”



Our lessons learned overall


• SALT can be introduced in different ways, in different ‘sizes’; there’s no “one size fits all”
• To make SALT ‘fit’, we need to analyze and understand each audience, so that we can choose our way of presentation which responds best to a specific audience in a specific circumstance.
• We have to be clear about our message and the ‘deliverables’. What message is most important to send to the audience in a limited time? What is it they must know about SALT, and what is nice for them to know if there is enough time?
• We can look at the limitation and a challenge (e.g. too short time available) or we can take it as an opportunity for learning how we can be creative and make the most of the available resources (including our own strengths, the available time, and the available technology and media).
• Setting the contexts is very important. Giving our real examples of how SALT has been applied and how it has helped communities solve their own problems helps the audience see that SALT is practical and experience-based, not a nice theoretical concept hatched in the ivory tower. It also helps the audience see how it may be applied in their own contexts.
• Setting the tone is also important. Participatory introduction helps connect everyone at the human level from the beginning.
• AAR needs to be done every day for the facilitation team to be able to think together about how to improve and do better next time/next day.
• We need to wrap up each session by linking it back to the way of thinking and the way of working, as well as make connections among the various sessions, to help the audience better understand the overall process.
• The usual mantra: be prepared but be flexible and open; trust the process and trust the team; and always look for strengths!


(For more details, see: http://www.communitylifecompetence.org/en/pages/168-partnership-net...)

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Comment by Usa Duongsaa on December 10, 2014 at 3:15pm

Hi Joke, sorry I didn't see your question earlier.  The mentioned 5 community strengths were:  hope, care, change, leadership, and sense of community.  Hope this helps :-)

Comment by Joke D´haese on September 5, 2014 at 9:39pm

Hi Usa, in the one day-formula you talk about 5 community strengths, what are they? 

Comment by Gaston on October 16, 2010 at 6:08pm
Very good posting Usa. Incredibly useful for all that facilitate interactions. I would add a 4th option:

Split up in small groups and let people share their experience with local responses. It can be any topic, but an example where communities - ideally our own - took ownership and responded to a specific challenge. This can switch the mindset of people into trusting community's capacity to respond to any issue.

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