Connecting local responses around the world
This video clip comes from part of a presentation that Jean-Louis gave in Ferney-Voltaire for the launch of the book about the story of our shared dream, 'What makes us human?'
Here is a slightly edited transcript of the video:
"I want to talk about the essence of what we are trying to do. For this we use the acronym SALT; Stimulate, Appreciate, Learn and Transfer. For me, it is easier to think about SALT in the reverse order, so TLAS.
If I come to your community because I want to learn and to transfer what I learn to my community then I am transformed by you. I have to be open enough to you that I accept that you influence me. I am not stuck in my analytical framework, rather I am opening myself totally to your experience. That is the true meaning of appreciation. I am not analysing your assets, I am just resonating with you on what is there in the moment.
In this way, we are both stimulated. I think that is because I have not been talking to you, but I have been listening to you. The questions I have asked have been to better understand you. I have not sought to establish how many of this or how many of that. I have not explored your problem or the cause of your problem. We have simply been trying to be there together. If we do that Krishnamurti says in ‘Freedom from the Known’ then action is immediate. There is no us and them. There is a big we and action is immediate.
That is our way of working. I accepted that way of working because it seemed rational to me. But you cannot do that without being changed when we transfer that way of working to our own environment. I don’t know what my wife would say, but I think that I am more appreciative than I was 10 years ago about what is happening in my family. Also I transferred that way of working into my village. We practice this approach of appreciation in my village: it’s not the whole village yet, but we are on our way.
The aspect to what we do is based on the Deming cycle. This approach is well known in the Quality community. In our application of the cycle, we said that we start with ‘Who are we?’ then ‘What is our dream?’ Can we reconnect with our deep aspirations? What is within ourselves? Can we do that in some silence? What is my dream for the environment in which I live? What can we as a group do to fulfil that dream? Where do we stand now and what can we do over the 6 months to move forwards. Meanwhile we can be writing proposals, but what can we do ourselves? Six months later we take stock, see where we are and then the cycle goes on.
These are the two engines of what we propose. One is appreciation. And the other is learning from action. That is the basis of our methodology.
So what does SALT do? Once you start to appreciate, the filters in front of our eyes seem to disappear. What are those filters?
The first filter is money. Action is more important than money. People are more important than money. We realise we can do a lot without money or with modest resources. That includes the poorest of poor places.
The second filter is the expert. The expert’s role changes. The role of the expert is to give the people the information that they need so that they can take action effective action themselves.
I often use a multiple choice set of questions on AIDS with the young people in Belgium. Not 30% of those students know more than 50% of the facts they need to know to regulate their sexual and reproductive behaviour. They had been ther target of injunction—Abstain from sex! Use condoms! Be faithful! Over and over again! Billions have been used for that purpose. Very little money has been spent to endow the people with the knowledge that they require. Frankly, if I were to be asking you these questions, my guess is that you will fail. Because the role of the expert is to tell people what to do and not to endow them with the facts.
So that is one and money is the second.
And the third one. Once you start to appreciate there are no sinners or saints. Those categories are gone. You have people with their strengths. And you can learn from them wherever they are on the social ladder on the moral ladder. You can put all those ladders back in the garage and just go straight to the person. These are the dimensions that I wanted to touch. The essence is not to be found in the tools. The essence is to be found in the change in that change in outlook. That is what is making it work. And that is what sustains it years later. I still practice SALT. It is in my blood. These are the type of answers that we get wherever we have worked. That is why we can say that we are still present there.
I am now going on a trip worldwide where I am proud to say that we will reconnect with people that we have not seen for years. But we know that they will have stories to share that will go way beyond where we left them.
And just to finish, two sentences. When I was writing this book, I did it out of gratefulness—for my education, for what I have become. I was thinking that people in the rich countries (I don’t know what a developed country is, but a rich country I know) might need this way of working. So we offer this in cities in Belgium for instance, in Redon in France. So exactly the same process. Now all of a sudden the publisher of the book, an American, says this book is relevant to the situation we find ourselves in here. We see that maybe a lot of people realise that we have lost the framework that has guided us for 50 years. We are groping for a new framework. And where is that going to come from if it is not from ourselves, from communities, human groups. And we have the audacity to offer A way (not THE way) whereby people can think about their common dream, formulate it and then act toward it. And that is the generic contribution that we would like to make."