SALT visit with staff of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs

Eleven staff of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, from all strata, cleaners, supervisory, middle management and senior management, participated as the “community” for this SALT visit. The purpose of the SALT visit was to ascertain strengths of the staff to becoming AIDS competent. The SALT visit Facilitators were Michael Mc Garrell and Autry Haynes.

When we started, we were apprehensive because this is our first real attempt. How do you introduce the subject of “identifying strengths of your community” when traditionally the focus was strengthening weaknesses or focusing on awareness to identify weaknesses? We approached with opened minds. We started with the concept of competence by illustrating the levels of competence and linking that with being competent in reducing risk / vulnerability. To introduce “Identifying community strengths” we posed the question “Are you human? What characterize you as being human?” Our surprise! There was a buzz of responses. We linked the answers of each person as their strengths and noted that the community strengths is an accumulation of the individual strengths, how would you, therefore describe the strengths of the staff of the Ministry as a whole? The youngest and normally shy/timid staff member without much hesitation noted that for her the strength of staff is “Friendship.” She expounded that because of this strength, it will be easy to socialize as well as to get involved in team effort activities such as games / sports and therefore easer for any intervention related to accomplishing “AIDS competence.” This generated the identification of several other strengths, such as the element of trust, resources such as knowledge and materials about HIV/AIDS, the small structure of the Ministry hence it ill be easier to monitor interventions and progress, there was also the element of openness and receptiveness and ability to listen, as well as support from top management towards interventions addressing reducing risk / vulnerability. One meaning full strength identified was “communication” albeit that it was observed to be at a low level. It was observed though that this strength was important with respect to behavior change and participants agreed that improving communication within the working environment was needed and “It begins with me.” Staff resolved to share what transpired at the discussion with staff members and to practice simple salutation within the working environment to initiate effort of effective communication.

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Comment by Autry Haynes on June 3, 2010 at 5:58am
Laurence, appreciate the follow up questions. In fact we did plan next steps: conduct self assessment related to the 10 practices and levels of competence. This action was stimulated from interest by the community in awareness sessions, which we (the Facilitators) in turn linked to "Acknlwledgement and Recognition" and hence the need to do the self assessment. No attempt was made to consciously measure performance from this exercise but when the community starts to develop plans emanating from the self assessment, we anticipate measurement of progress will become esssential. Thanks again Laurence
Comment by Laurence Gilliot on May 31, 2010 at 10:21am
Hi Autry,

I'm so excited about your visit! What will be the next step after this? Did the staff invite you to come back? Did you see any changes in the office in the days after the visit?

Thanks a lot for sharing.
Comment by Gaston on May 31, 2010 at 8:06am
Hi Autry, this is wonderful. It does need some guts to put this into practice, especially in our own working environment. You are doing really good. The essence remains our practice and then the reflection on these experiences.You demonstrate clearly that you are learning from local responses.

Take care and speak to you soon.
Comment by Olivia Munoru on May 31, 2010 at 7:43am
Dear Autry. I learned a lot from your blog. It shows how SALT can be applied in different contexts and circumstances. How great that the first sharing was from the shyer, younger staff member - and she was right that friendship is a great strength for this group. Friendship and trust are like glue - they keep it all together. One thing today I am going to take from your blog, and from the Ministry, is that improving communication in the work environment "begins with me". It's true for all of us.....
Thanks for sharing!
Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on May 31, 2010 at 12:22am
Dear Autry,

It was wonderful to read your blog. I liked how you engaged all levels of staff in the meeting. I also liked how the participants were able to identify their strengths to make their action plans. Its how you look at things, isn't it. For example, they could have said well our ministry is small and we can't do much.

Good facilitation. A learning for me. Thanks.

Warm regards,

Comment by Jean-Louis Lamboray on May 30, 2010 at 9:09pm
Thanks Autry for sharing your experience. I recognise that moment of "apprehension". After so many years of asking"what is your problem", I still do not find it easy to have a normal conversation as humans...You just went for it. Congratulations.


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