“Both Shreya and Heidi were the dream! There were so many times I was simply in awe of their magic, brilliance, and synergistic power. There were so many vulnerable, personal, and hard moments throughout the staff retreat and the Saltwater team was ready to honor it. Shreya’s energy allowed me to stay in my truth and imagine the type of work we do on a larger scale. Their facilitation and inner genius is truly transformative. I loved how intentional each activity was. Everything we did built on something else in such a brilliant way, and I could see how the agenda was tailored to our specific needs as a team and to some of the specific needs I mentioned in the pre-retreat survey. I appreciated that there was so much in-the-moment processing, challenging, and revisiting previous agreements and statements we shared. I personally feel like I’m a better human being after witnessing the way you all handled and navigated such challenging conversations.”   
{Nikia P, Everyday Feminism}

SALTWATER Training & Consulting:  Values & Guiding Frameworks

Saltwater uses the lenses and frameworks listed below to guide my work. Feel free to be in touch if you’d like to discuss further or have questions.

Social Justice & Intersectional Anti-Oppression Frameworks

Social justice is a process and a vision. This includes but is not exclusive to: full participation of all groups in society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs; an equitable distribution of resources, where people feel safe and secure, where individuals and communities are self-determining and interdependent, and processes are participatory, inclusive, affirming, and democratic to collaboratively create change. In order to move closer to this definition of social justice, we must actively fight oppression on all levels. The nature of social inequalities is that it is woven through and pervasively occupies the complex web of relationships and structures that determine what is right/normal (institutional oppression), the ways we feel about ourselves (internalized oppression) and others (interpersonal oppression), all while being infused and re-inforced through cultural norms and media.

I believe an anti-oppression lens should be applied to every level of training- from the exercises chosen to how information is presented to whom I co-facilitate with. I strive to be constantly aware and observant of group dynamics shaped by social forces, and am ready to support groups to bring up (or bring out) important dynamics- so as to support navigating these dynamics in an intentional way together.

Harm Reduction

A harm reduction approach informs my facilitation style. Some of the ways this looks is: treating participants with dignity and respect as well as upholding the view that participants have to take responsibility and have ownership of their own actions and impact on the larger collective group and society. I balance an approach where participants determine their own participation while also gently challenging individuals and groups to move closer to a larger vision of growth and transformation, one that impacts the growth/transformation of society. I also work with groups to be creative in solution-finding, knowing that there are often many paths to reach the same vision. Lastly, I aim to listen to the genuine flow of the group and push groups to let go of individualized outcomes/agendas – allowing participants to name what options exist as well as empowering them to identify new options.

Honoring Trauma & Past Experiences

Trauma is an inherent side effect of oppression and is present in the tensions, conflicts, and micro-aggressions that face all communities, collectives, and organizations. By holding a nuanced understanding of trauma, how it looks and manifests as well as how to heal and process trauma, we structure workshops and spaces that account for a group’s potential trauma needs and responses. This includes utilizing exercises and facilitation styles that center story-telling and exploring layers, complexity, and contradictions. I honor  participant’s intuition and body-based communication to gain deeper understanding and integrating new, healthier behaviors. I strive to use approaches that are aware of and open to natural human reactions to fear and harm that arise when diving into the deep waters of oppression and its intersections with trauma.

Popular Education & Direct Education

I strive to engage participants in liberatory, educational, transformational processes (including interactive activities to create space for action & reflection) which supports the transformation of society. I am heavily influenced by the work and theory of Training for Change (TFC based in Philadelphia) which uses a direct education approach (which adds to experiential or popular education as started by Brazilian educator Paolo Friere). I value a group-centered approach, where facilitators value their role of empowering people to discover their own individual genius and the groups collective expertise. Another influential force is Emergent Design (balancing an awareness/diagnosis of emerging needs and dynamics- issues, challenges, and larger growth needs of the group with the learning goals of the group and uplifting ‘teachable moments and experiences’ for the benefit of the larger group’s learning). The experiential learning cycle informs workshop design and amplifies the ways information is best absorbed, integrated, and utilized. There are many learning styles and various ways people learn best, and thus I use visual, auditory, kinesthetic, heart connection and relationship-building and strengthening tools. Lastly, TFC best describes my philosophy and relationship to risk and growth: “Deep learning is change, and change requires risk, and the facilitator’s job is to invite risk and make it safe[r] to risk. This not only has design and facilitation implications (such as intentional container-building), but also implies that the facilitators themselves need to take risks, including the risk of transparency to the participants”.

Other important values that guide Saltwater’s work incorporate Conflict as Generative, Principled Struggle as vital to create the world we urgently need, the creation of Safer/Braver Space to help participants take risks, Humor/Laughter as an useful and beautiful way to release energy and build connection, and honoring Accessibility needs and maintaining multiple options to participate in any activity.

“The Saltwater facilitation team had a super warm & inviting approach, which helped people’s defenses and guards come down. They were clear and unapologetic about doing anti-oppressive work – their approach met people where they were at without being wishy-washy. They were very well-prepared, had a good sense of the organization, culture and staff before they entered the room. We asked for a training that incorporated anti-oppression frameworks throughout, and this day-long session did that very well and really elegantly. The concrete tools helped create a clear entry point into the conversations we needed to have. SALTWATER’s session rebuilt trust & buy-in into our equity work.”     {Staff Member, Environmental Justice Organization}

“I was positively blown away by the way in which this staff retreat was facilitated. It was amazing how clearly Saltwater had listened to the needs of our organization and found a way to structure activities that met all of those needs – while also providing a space for organic shifts to happen. It was awesome to watch both individuals and the group as a whole blossom under the guidance that was provided by Saltwater. Having them there to facilitate really helped to shift the dynamics in the room in a way that created more space for authenticity and growth. The facilitators made me feel safe. I went into this retreat worried about how we were going to address all of the explicit and implicit issues that we were experiencing, both individually and organizationally, and others had expressed the same fear to me. But the facilitators created a space where we felt safe expressing ourselves because we knew the space would be held for ourselves and others. One thing that’s really stuck with me was how the team types activity was used to give us a chance to communicate issues we were having with one another in a way that allowed for confrontation, but in a safer space. It was such an effective way for us to get to the bottom of harmful dynamics and to express them in a supportive environment.

I also loved that Saltwater challenged us to think about our own thinking- I felt challenged in ways that didn’t feel like attacks. I felt comfortable sitting in my own discomfort. I also appreciated how the aforementioned allowed us to see *one another* differently. I felt like I was able to see my coworkers in new lights, based on what the Saltwater team pulled out of them. I feel like a different person after this experience. I recognized things in myself that I had never even considered before. I felt like I had burst open in this retreat, spilling out sunshine everywhere. I had to take time to work out what to *do* with all of this new love and energy in myself. I felt more whole. I felt more seen. I felt more complete. My self-concept was shaken to the point that I had to create a renewed sense of self – in a good way. I realized that I was more whole than I had given myself credit for and that I had the power to show up differently in the world – to minimize how I don’t want to show up, and to maximize how I do. I only wish we had had more time to explore these changes.”    {Melissa A. Fabello, Everyday Feminism}

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Many of the guiding frameworks, practices, and approaches of our transformative work at the Broadway Youth Center (and carried into my work) are documented in this toolkit by Lara Brooks and Mariame Kaba below. Check out Project NIA’s website for a free copy of ‘Whose Security Is It Anyway?’ and other resources for your abolitionist toolkit!

“In collaboration with youth workers from across Chicago, Brooks and Kaba created a toolkit to share strategies of resistance to the increased securitization of non-profit spaces and illuminate the need for organizations and individuals working within them to interrogate policies and procedures with an intersectional lens, develop and learn community accountability practices, and question program values and structures. We hope the strategies outlined in this session inspire, energize, and awaken possibilities towards creating more supportive, healthy, and transformative spaces for young people. 

“As organization leaders and workers, we must understand the impact and roots of institutional violence before we can fully acknowledge the ways our programs knowingly and unknowingly, passively and actively, deny help and—on some occasions—forcefully push young people closer to engagement with law enforcement.””

Values and Approach: References and Inspiration

  • Broadway Youth Center (Chicago): harm reduction, transformative justice, and trauma-informed frameworks and practices (see toolkit above for more information)
  • Rhizome Consulting Project (2015)
  • Training For Change website (4/2014): Our Direct Education Approach
  • Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook (Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, Pat Griffin)

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