A facilitators meeting

Having completed the training workshops which we had planned, CTA organised a new meeting in Rome, Italy, between the 29th and the 31st of October 2018. CTA was interested in meeting some of those who, during the last two years, have been facilitating capitalization processes in different parts of the world, in hearing about these different processes, and in sharing the results. It was also interested in hearing about the facilitation steps taken and about the main challenges faced when trying to engage colleagues and representatives from other organizations. A total of 28 persons joined this workshop, coming from countries as diverse as Argentina and the Philippines – covering all the regions where the project has worked.

Getting started
A short opening session included a brief presentation of all participants, and also a description of the current state of the project: the main activities completed, the results seen so far, and the major challenges identified. Because of the specific focus on the facilitation of an experience capitalization process, participants were asked to identify the main challenges they have seen or recognised while serving as facilitators, and identify the main skills they feel are necessary to support a process.

We were then divided into four separate groups, and we had the first of a series of “world café” sessions. Here, we looked at the main issues which need to be considered before a capitalization process starts, such as the (i) the selection of all participants, (ii) the necessary logistics, (iii) the use of online tools for, for example, getting participants to know each other, and (iv) the need facilitators may have to prepare themselves. The discussions centred on the need to ensure a long-term involvement, for which facilitators must engage actively with all participants and help build trust.

Following a short discussion in groups of two or three persons, participants were then asked to identify the main difficulties they have regularly seen when helping participants select a specific case, look for information and describe an experience – and then present the way they have been solving or addressing these difficulties. An issue raised more than once, for example, was that it helps to have participants working on similar projects, and thus experiences which are related, in one workshop. Participants also stressed that it helps if the facilitators knows the cases which are being described and analysed.

Next, we formed regional groups to look at steps needed to strengthen the analysis, agreeing that this is one of the most difficult parts of the process. Participants emphasised the importance of starting with clear goals and objectives, and of preparing a framework which can guide all those involved. “Facilitators must address both implementors and beneficiaries for feedback”.

From documentation to institutionalization
Looking next at a documentation process, the first day finished with a 6-person panel: the team selected six of the persons whose article had been published in each of the six booklets completed by the project, and invited them to sit in front of the whole group. The whole group then asked them questions related to this step of the capitalization process: how difficult it was to complete an article, how did they get feedback or involve their colleagues, why did the whole process take so long. Having six persons who had gone through the same process but in different parts of the world, it was interesting to find differences and similarities, and to highlight the role of a facilitator in this step.

The second day started with another “world café”, where we focused on the steps that need to be taken so that the lessons which are drawn with an experience capitalization process reach a specific target audience, and so that this audience is able to use them, and prepare better projects and achieve better results. Divided into four groups, participants looked at (i) the need to select and prepare a specific type of product (an article, or a policy brief, video, etc.), (ii) the steps needed to reach a particular audience, (iii) the need to establish and support information exchange mechanisms, and (iv) the need to “deal” with the context, and support the creation of an enabling environment for the adoption and adaptation of the lessons. In addition to preparing a detailed communications strategy, participants recommended looking in detail at an organization, focusing on its internal structures, the possibility of using incentives or rewards, etc.

A next step, following the same methodology, focused on the need to support the institutionalization of the approach: having a capitalization approach mainstreamed in our projects or organizations. Divided again into four groups, participants discussed the need to (i) mentor “champions” within our projects and organizations, (ii) organise and facilitate a community of practice, and encourage a broad discussion of topics, (iii) strengthen the links with the existing M&E efforts, and (iv) support an internal lobbying process, advocating for change within a project or organization. An important conclusion was to regularly show results to managers and colleagues.

The facilitators’ guide
The third day focused on the draft version of the facilitators guide which the project is completing, emphasising that this is not meant to be a guide for practitioners interested in starting a capitalization process, but one for facilitators interested in supporting a group of participants. Looking at its different chapters separately, participants were asked to identify those sections that they found were not fully elaborated, and to identify ideas, or links to reference materials which could be added.

This third day, and the whole meeting, finished with the preparation of regional plans, with groups looking at the steps to consider for the coming 5 months, and the steps for a later stage, once the CTA project is finished.

This was a short workshop, but one which was very positive. It helped validate many of the issues identified during the preparation, implementation and evaluation of the different capitalization processes supported by the project. It also helped identify the main steps which are needed now, both to support the processes which have already started and which need to be completed, and to start new initiatives. The many discussions we had helped validate the draft version of the facilitators’ guidebook: the final version, including all the comments made, will be ready before the end of the year. Most important, this meeting helped all participants get to know each other: “A lot can be built upon using the community of practice that CTA has brought together”.

© 2018, CTA. Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation

CTA is a joint institution operating under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement between the ACP Group of States (Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific) and the EU Member States (European Union). CTA is funded by the European Union.