How can we listen and respond to the neighborhood?

This is a story from two creative people who are associated with Salvation Army UK and have expertise in video documentation- John Anscombe and Neil Maclnnes.  The blog captures their perspective as observers of SALT process in the community. Neil filmed the Glocon in the US. Neil on his return to the UK shared his experience with John. I happened to note their insights!

In the past one year, Ian and Alison Campbell have been facilitating SALT amongst cadets of Salvation Army training College in Atlanta. The cadets belonging to multi-cultural background are residents in a safe, secure ,enclosed, high-walled training Salvation Army campus. Around this campus is a neighbourhood which they consider as highly dangerous. Gang rivalries  and conflicts are common in the neighbourhood. There have been cases of gun fire exchange. There is a wall of house in the neighbourhood bearing bullet marks. The cadets like to live in their self-contained premises, not daring to run or walk in the neighbourhood.

To build relationship with the neighbouring community and nurture a bond, Ian and Alison introduced the concept of SALT and community conversation to the cadets. The cadets thereafter were divided into triads and off they went to do SALT visits to the homes in the neighbourhood. The aim was to appreciate and listen to the community. Forget about your organisational agenda, or Salvation Army programme, said Ian and Alison. These visits are just to listen to the people in their homes and trigger  intimate conversations.

It was quite a sight to see the cadets return after the home visits. Many of them were in high spirits.  They had assumed that the community in the neighbourhood was in a bad state, full of conflicts and tension.  While there were difficulties and problems, the cadets discovered that the community was strong. It had within it many natural leaders. The community had taken several actions to address its issues and started many innovative initiatives. . The cadets realised that there were several capable and competent people who had invested in the community.  Many cadets were amazed that what happens when one goes out in the community and just listens. Though several of the cadets had ventured into the community area for the first time they felt that they were fostering friendships and building a new relationship with the community members.  By listening with appreciative lens and particularly in homes of people, families open up and share their personal concerns and hopes. Cadets observed that the human connection began to build as the differences and misunderstandings  seem to vanish between the visiting team and the family. 

However the cadets noted that while listening seemed a very simple process, it is extremely hard to have patience to listen.  The traditional way of giving a message and awareness to the community and going with an agenda is far easier than simply listening, active listening.

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Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 3, 2016 at 2:55pm

Glocon Mizoram India 2012 

‘You will not get a movement unless you get out of the building and move.’ Ian, at the THQ debriefing

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 3, 2016 at 2:49pm

Glocon India 2012

Community response to Tsunami, Srayikadu community, Kerala, India

Community talks about how Salvation Army team facilitated the response -‘They came many times to listen and his (Rajeesh’s) mental pain lifted. (Rajesh had lost his sister to Tsunami)’ -mother in law

‘Many houses that were built by NGOs are not suitable –they are hot, congested and distant from our places of work. NGOs should have listened more. Houses closer to the seashore which are left unused are being demolished now because the government does not want them being used for illicit purposes.’ Suneesh

‘We have lost our playing ground –they built in the grounds of the temple and no-one uses the buildings –a waste of one crore rupees.’ (Suneesh)

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 3, 2016 at 2:32pm

Glocon Chiangmai 

Ian: We learn to live by listening to each other

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 3, 2016 at 2:03pm

Glocon China 2012

Week 5 China, Kunming, Yunnan ProvinceHome AIDS has been in a process of learning from its experience – periodic facilitation has stimulated the team to analyse their progress from the community point of view. Over 10 years, the organization has adapted its strategies increasingly toward a home and community based work, with the office base used for respite, preparation, education but more collaboration in neighbourhoods around the city of Kunming.

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 3, 2016 at 2:00pm

‘The two things that helped the most were government health promotion that openly talked about the disease, and the ngo listening, helping us to communicate with each other.’

Glocon China

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 3, 2016 at 1:16pm

People are in community, in homes, stuck in grief for decades, because it has gone unheard. Meanwhile we can be stuck in programmes, not listening. –Ricardo

Glocon Swaziland

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 3, 2016 at 1:07pm

Someone said that SALT is too simple. Actually we make it too complex in our own minds – it is a matter of daring to sit down with someone and listen. –Hanne

Glocon Denmark

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 3, 2016 at 1:00pm

Story from Glocon Estonia in which I learned that when we listen intently, it creates a space where others can share-  group confidentiality is created 

Week 12:Narva, Estonia We shared our reason for returning to Narva with a small worship group on the Sunday morning. Acknowledgement was made that HIV had been encountered in 2004, affecting and engaging the congregation. Some families of the group had experienced and accompanied their friends with HIV. Immediately a woman stood and shared her critical transformative experience of learning that her daughter had HIV and that she had befriended a young man with HIV who died recently. There was more to the story…but the point is that she chose to share publicly what most in the group already knew. She felt safe and truthful and connected to our previous visits. She trusted the group and the group respected her word. We all listened intently and felt able to ask her for a personal conversation, which happened straight after the worship group had finished. Personal confidential details were then shared .The two contexts –issue centered group reflection, and person centered ‘intimacy’ -reinforced and supported the emergence of normalization.

Glocon Estonia

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 3, 2016 at 12:51pm

This helps us change our role from carrying everything, limited always by how much we can carry. We can start by going out each week as a team, and we will learn how we can shift our priorities. –Vadim

Glocon Ukraine

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 3, 2016 at 12:23pm

We have to invest energy into listening. -Tom, UK

Everyone has a story. Listening shows interest and gives positive feedback to the person. Visits build connections. –Jason

Invest in listening. We need to learn how to listen. –Peter

Source Glocon UK 2012


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