The Alianza Sierra Madre pursues a philosophy of self-help. The indigenous communities do not need to be smothered by the concepts and plans of outsiders. Instead the work begins with multi-day workshops,

in which the participants - young people, women, men - present their problems, develop ideas on how to solve these problems, and identify their need for help on their own. Thus the indigenous communities remain the agents of the procedure: they design development concepts that are based on traditional knowledge and are embedded in their own culture.
The topics covered in these workshops are diverse: violence and the prevention of violence, drugs, health care and women's rights, environmental protection and sustainable agriculture, cultural change in the indigenous communities.