In 2009, MISEREOR asked the AME Foundation in Bangalore, India, to help their partner organisations with the documentation of the implementation of the Farmer-led Approach, hoping to capture the essence of the changes seen in these organisations, and the changes this had had. The process was organised together with Caritas, BARCIK and BIA, all of whom have been busy with FLA for a few years.
We started with a 4-day workshop in Mymensingh, to the north of Dhaka in June 2009, with the participation of representatives of the three organisations, and also representatives of the farmer organisations working with them. During the first days of September I was again in Bangladesh, on a second visit to these organisations.
We started the workshop by talking about our objectives, about FLA and their programmes, our main strategies (of learning by doing, and not listening to a lecture), and about the possibility of having a core team of participants to help and support the facilitators.
Following the method drawn by ILEIA, we started by setting the boundaries: identifying what exactly did they want to document, and separating those pieces of information which can be used from those that cannot. Next came the description, where participants discussed how to organize all activities and results (whether this is chronologically, according to the theme or to a region).
A next step was the analysis, wherein participants were asked to give their opinion. In order to do this, we needed a set of criteria and indicators which could help justify these opinions. Among the options:
- the fulfilment of objectives (did they do what was planned to do), using as indicators ideas such as the time period, the funds available, the perception of farmers, the role of the donors, etc.;
- the institutionalisation process (how much is FLA being taken as part the organisation), looking at its incorporation into regular plans, into the work of other programmes or projects, etc.;
- how much does FLA fit into the context (how does it relate to the Bangladeshi context), looking at its relation to local customs or traditions, or to the government’s actions;
- the set of partnerships (how does each organisation work with other organisations), considering agreements, informal collaboration, etc.; and
- their vision of the future (how is it going to continue), especially in terms of scaling-up and sustainability.
The second part of the process was meant to help finalise the draft documents which these organisations prepared after the first meeting (identifying the gaps, eliciting information on these information gaps). We discussed the difficulties they had experienced, and the parts which were still missing in their document. We also talked about writing, and about the basic components of a document – mentioning the importance of completeness, conciseness, accuracy and, more importantly, the “humanisation” of the text (making the document more readable and reliable).
Following the ideas of a writeshop, it was first necessary to agree upon a structure for each text. This was all split into subsections so as to make it easy to place the relevant information in each section. As the document was projected on to the screen, all the members could contribute and give their views, both in content gaps and style of presentation. Each one of them read the document, reflected the meaning, corrected it wherever required and made suggestions. Copies were made and shared with them, leading to new versions.
- We were able to encourage all to participate throughout the process
- We succeeded in developing a learning atmosphere
- After a few more weeks, the final product was completed, printed and shared: Strengthening people-led development: A joint effort of local communities, NGOs and donors to redefine participation.
- The documentation workshop has helped all organisations in organising their information. It has also helped them understanding the importance of the analysis in a document. However, participants are not clear as to how to bring in these elements into the written texts.
- Building capacities on documentation will be incomplete if the participants are not guided in writing, which the most common form of field documentation. Hand holding the organisations in the process of writing becomes crucial in helping them bring out documentation products.
- Involving multiple organisations in a workshop can lead to cross learning, if they are all working on a common objective or approach (for example, FLA). On the other hand, with the participation of multiple organisations, if the experiences are diverse with the limitations of learning capabilities and language across organisations, the process can become less effective.
- Although working in parallel, supporting one organisation at a time is much more effective and focused. Approaches and strategies specific to the organisation could be adopted.
- By creating a learning atmosphere, internal learning on the programme will be much more. With more number of staff getting benefited from the process, this will result in more sustainable documentation within the organisations.
- It would be better if we could use the information already recorded in earlier reports for known aspects (about the project, objectives…etc..etc) which don’t change over time. Focus could then be more on analysis part. This would mean that the organisations should have an ongoing documentation / recording systems – processes, events, photos, quotes, anecdotes, cases, numbers etc. As we all know we cannot capture these at the end of the project period.