Connecting local responses around the world
For me the S for Stimulating in SALT reminds me of Appreciative Inquiry (AI): what (behavior, routine, way of working) is already going well (even if it happens irregularily or not so often), and how can we stimulate its occurrence to spread or increase?
A few days ago Ayan (former refugee from Somalia) and I were visiting a community of single men that live together temporarily in a housing facility that the local government provided for them, while waiting for their new, individual appartments to become available.
They are (former) refugees with a temporary residence permit. They had been complaining about the building not being clean, so they had made a cleaning roster for daily cleaning. Most of the men were now cleaning, except two who didn't do their part of the chores. The conversation went to the fact that two people hadn't cleaned, and later I realized we hadn't addressed the fact that there has been a lot of improvement due to their initiative and self-organization: initially only three residents were cleaning the house, and now - thanks to the roster - five or six did their chores.
The fact that the conversation went to the remaining problem instead of the improvement that had taken place, is a very common phenomenon. Even after having been involved with AI and SALT for several years, I still notice how I tend to focus on problems, on lack or deficit. This is why we work in facilitation teams: to remind each other of looking for what DID work well. When one of us forgets to voice appreciation, the other one can jump in. And after the meeting we can reflect together as facilitation team. That's how we become aware of our habits together, e.g. the habit of focusing on problems.
Luckily, we were able to move the attention to generating creative solutions.
The biggest theme in the group was moving from looking for external authority, to taking charge and leadership within the group. The initiative to make a cleaning roster was the most visible example of leadership and ownership. What will happen next is that two residents will become spokespersons, representatives of the group who will talk to the external authority (the caretaker assigned by the local government) about suggestions for improvements.
The current arrangement is that residents pay for someone cleaning the house two days a week. They will discuss the option that this person doesn't come anymore to clean, and that the residents who do the daily cleaning will be paid from the money formerly paid to this janitor. That way, not everybody has to be part of the roster, and the residents that do the work will be paid by the ones who choose not to contribute.
We left the meeting congratulating the men for their positive contribution to the group, and thanked them for their leadership.
One week later:
As agreed, we, from the Dutch Council for Refugees, received a letter from one of the leaders who will now be a spokesperson: he collected signatures from all residents who support his role as a spokesperson. We received the letter with signatures a couple of days BEFORE the date we agreed upon. This indicates, I think, that genuine ownership has been established for this action point.
The spokesperson speaks a little bit of Dutch, his native language is Arabic. A volunteer from Iraq, a former refugee who speaks Dutch as well as Arabic, will assist the spokesperson in the regular meetings with the caretaker and the local government. Our intention is to incorporate the SALT approach in the role of intermediate/translator: not taking over responsibility, but assisting in such way that the other person grows in self-confidence and skills. A way of helping that keeps human dignity intact.