The main problem that this project tries to address is that the effectiveness of many rural development interventions is limited because there is insufficient information and a limited documentation of the activities implemented in the field and of the results achieved. Project documents highlight that knowledge is being developed all the time, in many places and at many levels. However, a large proportion of the knowledge developed by projects and programmes in the field is rarely written down, is not published, and therefore remains largely unknown. “Experience capitalization” refers to the process by which a specific project or programme (or “an experience” in general) is described and analysed, and from which lessons are identified, shared and used to improve development interventions. It helps identify specific innovations and practices, and understand the reasons behind success or failure. It can help provide evidence, supporting advocacy efforts. An additional benefit is that through the involvement of different participants in the process, both the capacities of and the collaborative relationships between these participants are strengthened.
Experience capitalization is a methodology by which experiences are identified, analysed, shared and used to bring about innovation. This may occur through the improvement of existing practices in their original context, through the adoption or scaling up of good and promising practices into new contexts, as well as through their adaptation in the implementation of future activities, leading to a desirable change. Experience capitalization ensures that practical experiences are captured, and that tangible “capital” is created from them.
While the ultimate beneficiaries of this project will be farmers and rural communities, the immediate beneficiaries of the activities of this project will be professionals in development projects, government and non-governmental organisations, research institutes or farmer organisations. The project will particularly focus on those who, while working with many different development projects and programmes, are interested and involved in a reflection process, and in learning from and sharing the lessons from their work.
The project is interested in working with individuals and organisations who can involve others, such as federations or apex organisations, and who can help disseminate the results and expand the benefits, while minimising the costs (especially travel costs). Combined with a formative evaluation, this will also help achieve a balance between quantity and quality: between the number of capitalization processes that will start and will be supported, and the quality of each one of them.
Participation in the project will consider a series of steps distributed during a few months. In short, this will mean
- a review of the training material, and its use to start a capitalization process by focusing on a specific case: to identify colleagues and stakeholders to involve in the process, plan the whole process, collect the necessary information from their colleagues and in the field, organise and analyse the collected information, and put their results in a shareable format. Participants will be supported online by the project;
- joining a training workshop, with representatives of different organisations. This will follow a “learning by doing” approach: participants will be invited to complete their own capitalization process. As such, the main focus will be on the description and on the analysis of the different experiences. A continuous and active reflection will lead to a collection of lessons that can then be shared; this analysis will lead to documented lessons and to recommendations, as new knowledge that can be put into practice;
- completing the capitalization process with online support (mentoring and coaching). The trainers or facilitators will remain in touch with the representatives of the implementing partner organisations and monitor progress, addressing and documenting the challenges faced and how they overcome these;
- sharing the results with colleagues and with the general public. This will include the dissemination of the lessons drawn at different levels with a series of publications. It will also consider the dissemination of information in the project’s website and online presence. The project will organise a series of writing sessions (writeshops) to support the documentation process (as a collaborative peer-supported process). These will be regional or language-specific, encouraging the discussions and interaction among many participants;
- joining a general discussion, focusing on the steps followed in every process and on the main lessons learned. This step will also include thematic interactions, supporting the analysis of a specific case (especially among the peers in the region and in some cases internationally with other regions); and
- preparing for institutionalization, and for the continuous adoption of experience capitalization as a learning process. This will consider the identification of the conditions needed for adopting the lessons drawn from a particular experience and improving future activities (awareness, interest, evaluation), and analysis of an organisation’s capacity to do so; the analysis of the possibilities for learning from an experience on a continuous basis, and of the conditions needed for institutionalizing experience capitalization (adopting or establishing the necessary norms, rules and procedures, assigning the necessary resources; establishing a system of incentives; running capacity-building programmes, etc.); and the preparation of Action Plans for implementing experience capitalization.
While all organisations currently implementing a rural development project or programme are welcome to join, the preferred cases will be those which
- have been going on for at least two years;
- show potential for extracting lessons which can lead to changes or to an improvement in the organization’s intervention strategies;
- have motivated and interested staff members;
- show a strong relationship with its target group;
- have written or audio-visual material, and information available about its activities and results;
- (preferably) have the financial resources and the time to engage in an experience capitalization process; and
- are running activities and showing results that are especially relevant to other projects or programmes of the organisation, or to those of other organisations working around the same theme or in the same region.