As part of its IFAD-funded project, and with the help of the Asia Indigenous People’s Pact (AIPP), CTA conducted a first training workshop in Chiangmai in August 2017 (see here). This helped 32 participants, representing 14 organisations from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, start an experience capitalization process. Since then, the facilitators provided advice and guided all participants, helping them prepare a document that would show, and help them share, the main lessons learnt as a result of their work in the field. Between the 20th and the 23rd of November, the same team conducted a follow-up workshop to finalise these cases.
The facilitators relied on the same set of tools, and kept the same tone of the workshop – a mix of fun and learning. And the overall objective of this workshop was made clear to all participants right in the beginning: finishing their cases by the end of the last day, and preparing an Action Plan that would guide their capitalization activities in the near future. Thus, much of the time in this workshop was devoted to making their stories and their documents as complete and as cogent as possible, following an iterative process. The team used TED-talk-like presentations, self assessment tools (like scoring sheets), peer reviews, and also a one-to-one mentoring approach.
The workshop produced a number of interesting case studies from the South-East Asian region – all of which are being edited, and will be printed soon. Additionally, it also motivated participants to try and institutionalise a capitalisation approach in their own organisations. Judging from the feedback received from participants, the two-workshop process has been a strong learning experience for most participants: “When we wrote our case study, we realised that the outcomes of our project were not as good as we had thought earlier. So it was a good experience to understand the gaps in our planning and in the implementation of all activities. We realised that we need to do much more to improve the quality of our projects”. Another participant was equally clear: “At the very beginning, I felt like a baby duck, just learning about experience capitalization. From the first workshop to the second one, I learned a lot. Before, I didn’t know how to write. In the second workshop I was able to spend more time in my case. I also found how to write a god case study. We know now what are the ingredients of a good case, and what data us needed to strengthen the evidence we show”.
A few difficulties
Unfortunately, some of the participants who joined the first workshop had to drop out due to other engagements. Thus, only 18 of them went to Chiangmai again. Still, despite not being able to attend, some participants completed and submitted a full case, sending them for review to the facilitators. There were also three new participants who replaced persons who could not come.
And although the number of participants was smaller, the whole group remained truly committed, and worked very hard on their cases and assignments. All participants put in a maximum effort. A general problem was that, once they went back to their countries (especially after the first workshop), other priorities took over. Therefore, our key learning is to use as much time in the workshops as possible to get participants to write their cases. In this sense, for this particular group, designing the two workshops predominantly as write-shops made a lot of sense.
On the other hand, one of the problems the facilitators discovered in the draft documents prepared by the participants was that too much space was taken by secondary details (context, geographical area, project objectives, etc.) and much less time was given to the central idea that they wanted to share. In order to help the participants focus on the key idea in each case, we simulated a short presentation environment. In the first round, participants presented their cases to each other in 5 minutes each. In the second round, one of facilitators acted as an external donor, and the participants got 2 minutes to present the case to her. This was done to help them all focus and also to communicate this key idea to a specific target audience, and to ensure they incorporated the “capitalisation for change” aspect into their presentations.
The use of English as a medium of instruction in the first workshop was mentioned as a major issue. In the second workshop, in addition to the constraints of using English as the workshop language, we also saw difficulties in using English as the language for presenting each case study. Many participants found it difficult to write in English, and the facilitators spent a lot of time correcting grammatical and syntax errors, in addition to looking at the content. A general discussion showed that both these issues – communication during the workshop and stronger case studies – can be greatly resolved if the workshop is held in a local language. Additionally, it will generate content for the project or for other local stakeholders, which can therefore be “used” much faster.
Institutionalising the approach
The primary reason why an experience capitalization approach resonates with most participants is because most development organisations are doing infinitely more work than they are able to document and share. This seriously prevents their ability to showcase their work to the governments, the local authorities, the donors and their primary constituencies. Experience capitalization provides a structured and easy way for generating knowledge products that respond to the needs of their primary stakeholders.
Nevertheless, there are a number of factors which prevent participants from “adopting, adapting and scaling up” this approach. One of these, for example, is the language. As designed right now, the available tools and resources are written in English, and demand a strong command of this language. This is a serious constraint in South Asia and South-East Asia. Thus, a larger adoption of this approach would require, along with local language materials, a cohort of bi-lingual facilitators with the necessary experience, commitment and communication skills to convey and hand-hold participants through the entire process. Such a cohort of facilitators is missing right now and needs to be developed.
Discussions on the institutionalisation of the capitalization approach among participants in the South-East Asia workshop, as in other countries, revealed a surprising willingness to adopt it within their own organisations. The representatives of the different projects and organizations in the region developed well thought-out, judiciously budgeted and detailed institutionalisation plans, and aligned these with the IFAD, World Bank or their organisational priorities. One last thing to point out, however, is that the very process of discussing an institutionalisation process raises expectations of support. This is something that needs to be dealt with carefully.