Wrapping Research Questions in SALT


A donor was ready to fund a short ‘study’ on community’s life during /covid lockdown in some districts* of Pakistan. A proposal was being developed by Shirkat Gah, and CEC (Community Engagement Centre) of Indus Health Network was invited to become a partner in this initiative. The reason for CEC involvement was an ‘experiment’ CEC had informally conducted to reach community members through voice messages on mobile phones. Idea was to see the viability of communicating with communities while during the lock down. Voice messages that were tested posed questions on domestic violence during the lockdown, and also about what where they proud of in their work during the lockdown. The responses on the pride questions were very stimulating as the question was deeply appreciated by the respondents.

When the proposal writing began, Shirkat Gah (SG) agreed to incorporate SALT in the proposal and asked CEC to take the lead in writing this part of the proposal. Two actions emerged:
1. All research questions that SG wanted were wrapped in SALT
2. Introduction of SALT to the SG team

*A district is an administrative unit of every province in Pakistan. It consists of several lowers levels of administrative units. This system enables the Government to reach people residing in villages and town of the distict.

Making research questions SALTY
There were to be 7 questions to be posed through voice messages. These included:
1. Taking informed consent on a learning process spread over 6 weeks. (word ‘research/study’ was deliberated avoided; and two-way learning was emphasized.
2. What is humanity and what are you proud of
3. What have you learnt from this process.
Other questions were on: changes in gender relations; effect on livelihood and community’s strategies to maintain their livelihood; early childhood marriages; social capital.

Wrapping the research question in SALT was a challenge. This was done by including in the questions appreciation of community’s struggles and efforts, and listening to whatever they said. This also meant that the research teams would just not send voice messages but carefully listen to the responses as they came, and from the responses to note the strengths and then include this information in the next voice message. This was not easy without the research team members become conscious of the strength approach of SALT. Furthermore, this also meant unlearning some of the conventional research practices of simply being interested in raising the research questions and gathering responses to them.

Challenges Faced
There were three tiers of respondents. The first tier had mobile phones and so voice messages could be sent to them. They responded by giving voice messages, or telephoning the coordinator of the messages. The Second Tier was to be reached by the First Tier and this group had mobile phones but not smart phones. Hence, sms messages were sent or contact was made on phones. The Third Tier was to be reached by Tier Two and when this seemed to have become slow, Tier One contacted them. Maintaining SALT’s strength based approach could not be ensured as it seemed more persistent learning was needed. The key question became: How to help community members learn SALT

Introducing SALT
Two online sessions were conducted to help SG team become familiar with SALT. Each session was about 2 hours. This was followed by a one hour session on Reflexivity.

Sessions Content
Session one

Following questions were raised, and all participants were asked to write their responses in the chat box: (1) Share a collective response for a common problem that you may have experience or seen; (2) What is humanity; what makes you human; (3) What did you do in the last 3 months that you are proud of. Responses to the material in the chat box were given. History of SALT and its use was shared. Questions on the questions raised were answered. Importance of dream-exercise was shared, and why it was not included in the current session was explained. Metaphor of swimming was used to stress how SALT is to be learnt – i.e. through its practice. Open invitation was given to raise questions and ask for another session if needed.  Condition for a follow-up session was placed to SG – apply the questions and then come to follow-up session.


Session two

SG members shared their experience of raising the questions. SG members shared their experience of raising the questions. One by one, they shared the responses to the questions. They were also asked to share: (1) The effect on them of listening to the responses to the questions; (2) The effect on the respondents themselves in sharing their responses. This focus on learning was a challenge as many did not seem to be accustomed to this process. Thus, reflexivity as a tool to monitor one’s own learning was mentioned and offered if there was a desire to learn about it.


Introduction to Reflexivity A one hour session was conducted on reflexivity. Focus was on: (1) Knowing your subjectivity; (2) Knowing your positionality. Importance of separating feelings and thoughts was raised. Short exercises were used to learn about separating feelings and thoughts; and to know what constitutes positionality.


Author: Kausar S Khan.

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