The L is SALT is for Learning. For me, this part of the acronym had the most immediate and powerful impact on how I did things.

I first heard about SALT when I visited Ian and Alison Campbell at the Salvation Army Headquarters in London in (I think) February 2004. I had heard a lot about Ian and Alison before the visit, but that did little to prepare me for the flood of ideas and energy that I encountered that afternoon. It took me a long time to take in all of them. But there was one that for me was overwhelming and new. It was the idea that when a SALT team engages with a community, the SALT team has to learn from the community and take that learning back into their own organisation. I remember taking the bus back across London to catch the train to my home in the north of England and I simply could not get this idea out of my head.

At the time I spent a lot of time working with companies. They were paying me to be the expert. I decided I was going to experiment with this strange SALT idea. In all my meetings from now on, my challenge was to learn from the people I was working with. And so I tried it. And I found that I enjoyed it very much indeed. After a few months, I was reviewing my project with the 2 senior partners who ran the company. They had received feedback that people had noticed a very dramatic change in the way I was working with them. What was the change and why had I done it? And so I explained. I wondered if this was going to be the end of the relationship. But no, all that they asked was that at the end of the year, I make a presentation to the group of the things I had learned from my work with them.

So this became a regular feature of my work. At the end of the year, I would present what I had learned from the people who were paying me to be the expert. In the language of SALT, the presentation was an appreciation of strengths. In some ways it came to be a celebration of strengths, strengths that people had not realised that they had.

When I made my presentation at the end of 2008, something very interesting happened. One of the group asked if she could add some of the things that she had learned from her colleagues during the year. And then the process unfolded. Other people started to contribute what they had learned from their colleagues during the year. And it went on and on. It was very moving, very powerful and very useful.

Only a few months earlier I had been introduced by Laurence to the practice of ‘Watering the flowers’. I do know that I had been influenced by what I had learned from Laurence. I don’t know if I had spoken to my colleagues about it. But I recognised the same feelings in the room at the end of the session.

I would like to recommend the exercise of a group of people celebrating what they have learned from each other.

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Comment by Onesmus Mutuku on September 15, 2014 at 3:37pm

Amazing to see how Psychologist peace it together without naming SALT -

Comment by Onesmus Mutuku on September 15, 2014 at 1:58pm

Inspiring Phil, and powerful reflections from the Team.

Comment by Phil on April 9, 2010 at 6:50pm
I enjoyed thinking about the comments.

Here are some thoughts from my personal perspective.

Laurence and Rebeka on the issue of the 'balance' between appreciating strengths and feeding back weaknesses. I don't know how to think about the question until I am clear as to why I appreciate strengths and why I might want to feedback weaknesses. Here is the starting point in my thinking: most of us are not very good at identifying and appreciating our strengths. Most of us are pretty good at identifying our weaknesses.
I appreciate strengths for 2 reasons. First, is that when people do not appreciate that they have strengths, they are reluctant to take action. When they recognise the strengths that they have then they begin to take action. So when an individual/ group is taking action, why do I need to appreciate strengths? Because when we fully appreciate our strengths, we become more willing to recognise areas where we need to improve.
So how about giving feedback in areas where we are not so strong. I think that the After Action Review is a good context in which the team reviews its performance, reflects on how to do better next time. I am not going to dwell on the AAR process here.

Gaston. I think that there are many ways to appreciate strengths. Feedback is only one way. I will write about another possibility in the blog later today.

Jean Pierre. I agree with you about the need for support. I have found that at least one part of doing the actions in an action plan is a lonely, difficult and dispiriting task and I know that I need all the help that I can get. So yes, I know that I need support and I think that we should recognise that communities need support as they carry out their plan. It is easy to say, 'Just do it!'. It is harder to do it. To use your model: it is easy to think that once you've taken off then the flying will be easy. It is then that you hit a nasty wind and all hell breaks loose.

Wiwin, I would like very much to see your report. Good luck
Chandra, it is excellent to hear from you. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on SALT.
Rituu, I would enjoy hearing of your experiences too.

Comment by rebeka sultana on April 6, 2010 at 12:38pm
Hi Laurence,

I have same experience as you mentioned below. How to feed back? whether I should at all provide feed back or keep on appreciating and then how long shall we wait and see the progress. Sometimes it may cause impatience. I find this situation occure to me at the facilitation of CLCP, the work I am doing here, also with my 2 teen agers at home and with friends. At times ONLY keeping on appreciating appears as a big challenge to me . there may be another-way of doing it, and I resolve to think that I am at level 3 not at level 5 of applying SALT.
Let we have a discussion and create a space here at ning to get others input about how do they keep on appreciating and whether/and how to or not to provide feed back.

Relating to Phil's blog I have on experience last year. I was in a learning event facilitating some sessions and other times I kept quiet and learning how other facilitators doing and appreciating. I have been asking stimulating questions to the people we were having the learning event. One of the facilitators asked me "is not it you are supposed to answer all the questions, I see rather you are asking us"?

Comment by wiwin winarni on April 6, 2010 at 9:29am
Dear Phill;

I printed your blogs as my reference to prepare report and presentation of my last year tenure as UNFPA field staff dealing with management and technical assistence I had been serving to our implmenting partners.
That is it, the one I need to make what we had done powerfull and strengthened ownership bu other by inviting all of us sharinh what we have been learned from one and another. Thank you Phill..

To all who have commented thanks for your very detailed and technical working steps that would be very supportive for me doing salty ways of working, thinking and life both at my personal and profesionnal life.

Best Regards

Comment by chandra nurhasz on April 5, 2010 at 3:22pm
Dear Phill,

Many thanks for your inspiring blog post. I really learned a lot.

Comment by Laurence Gilliot on April 5, 2010 at 12:51am
Hi Phil,

I was thinking about a recent challenge I experienced here, being in Kinshasa. About one month and half ago, we went on two SALT visits in Mbudi with newly trained facilitators. We went to learn from the communities and also to help RDCCompétence to coach these new facilitators. They facilitated quite well but of course the facilitation was not perfect. I found myself at the AAR, feeding back to the new facilitation team what they had done well but also what didn't go that well, in my experience.

I found it difficult to find the balance between feeding back the positive and less positive sides to the facilitators... Should we only feedback the strengths to be a 100% SALTy? Or should a SALT team be open to learn from the + and less + sides?

Did you ever experience this?

Comment by Gaston on April 5, 2010 at 12:37am
I like your clear and simple sharing Phil. It shows how a mindshift within ourselves can bring about a change in a group.

I think feeding back strengths when you get paid for being an expert requires some real 'guts' in the beginning. Is this my job? They want my advice right? Is what I am doing adding enough value? It's so uncommon that we need to be self-confident to challenge a certain traditional way of working. It's still a tension I sometimes struggle with, especially when we're stepping outside the Constellation where many people are used to feeding back strengths.

I have noticed that to change our way of working and express this in our work, we need to be self-confident. And to be self-confident, we need a larger community that supports us in this way of working. That's why we need to connect, everywhere, all the time to nourish this self-confidence.

Comment by John Piermont Montilla on April 4, 2010 at 10:42am
Hi Phil,

I chatted you two days ago, but you did not replied. I think you missed to see the chat function at ning. Its about a question if you are still strong with your proposal of including "support" in the constellation's mission. I'm passionately supportive of your proposition as I come to keep on learning with my own engagement with the community I serve.

Anyway for this discussion, for the letter "L" in the SALT, one thing that is being missed out among facilitators and that is "Listening", well many will say they are listening but its not the "listen" per se but the value of listening and the action afterwards. Do we listen in order for us to document what we have heard or to listen because we want to analyse the information we are generating?

One, when we listen, information are scattered and what we do is arrange them and guide the discussion toward a goal. Our goal for listening is that we gather data that are black and white. If there are grey areas we then facilitate to sift these data so to arrange them to become clear, when we already arranged the data gathered we then weigh the negatives and the positives and when the negatives seems to outweigh the positives then we further the dialogue in order to move towards the positive side.

And last, what do we do with the data we code and document? This is a critical question? do we do documentation for our end (to create project proposals for funding) or to the community's end? by making bold steps in "SUPPORTING" communities to be the change they want to be by assisting them technically, financially and morally.

Support is missing, communities need support, sustainable support. Its like coming to their communities and stir them by stimulating ideas of change and when they get excited we leave them without support mechanisms. Thats why in my community I really don't want to leave them just as I found them. I want to create support mechanisms for them to eventually fly with their own wings.

Currently, when i make proposals, I have developed a step-wise approach so that communities will become self-sufficient eventually:
Step 1 - forming wings (dream-building, social support, ideas)
Step 2 - learning to fly (training, capacity development, mentoring)
Step 3 - taking off (support facilities and financial capital)
Step 4 - flight (engaging in sustainable change efforts and community life competence work)

In each stages, SALT is facilitated while transitioning from one step to the other needs support

Learning and listening are two of my favorite Life Competence process. Thats why developing new ideas are product of learning and listening.

Thank you
Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on April 4, 2010 at 12:10am
Dear Phil,

Thanks for this very POWERFUL sharing!

Warm regards,



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