A first training workshop took place in Goa, India, between the 10th and the 13th of April, 2017, with participants from Nepal, Bhutan, Indonesia and also from many different states in India. A second one followed in Pondicherry, starting on the 11th of September. This was jointly organised with the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai.
The mapping exercise which was carried out as part of the “Capitalization of Experiences for Greater Impact in Rural Development” project in 2016 showed many projects and organizations interested in joining. Many of them were found in India and in Asia in general. This is not a part of the world which CTA generally covers, but the project was especially interested in working there.
A learning process
In short, the main objective of this process has been to start an experience capitalization process with all participants, and to draw specific lessons regarding the process, guiding future workshops. The first meeting followed the model tried out elsewhere: it was planned for four days, and followed a “learning by doing” approach. This meant that participants were invited to start an experience capitalization process, and not just to discuss the concepts, principles and methodology to follow.
But even though this workshop followed a model tried before, the facilitators added a few elements both to content and delivery. This has helped see, for example, that asking participants to share information before the workshop starts can be very useful. By the time participants got together in Goa, they all knew who was coming, they had all shared information about their work, and they had already discussed the programme and the activities which were to start. Equally positive was to start many sessions with a short presentation made by a few participants. Their individual experience was used to present a subject, and to identify the key issues for discussion. And the facilitators showed that it is a good practice to have a short evaluation at the end of every day, and to invite a few participants to do a short recap at the beginning of the second, third and fourth days. This helped see which points were clear, and also those which needed to be discussed again.
Regarding the process, a general conclusion was that more attention needs to be given to the “boundaries”, and to the selection of each case. Participants agreed that their descriptions needed to consider the achievements and results seen with each case, together with the main difficulties and challenges, but repeated that they all had very little time to look at the details, like the dates for each activities, or the number of people involved. Next, they also saw some difficulties with the analysis: some of the words used, like “positive aspects”, were not altogether clear. It was therefore necessary to modify and explain fully the terms used in the templates participants were expected to fill in describing their cases. Last, they also agreed that talking about sharing the main lessons before actually describing a case may make sense – helping them see the whole process more clearly from the beginning.
A second workshop
A few months later, participants (unfortunately, not all of them!) met again in Pondicherry. The aim of this second meeting was to refine and finalise the case study documents all of them were preparing, and exploring the possibilities for institutionalising the approach within their organisations. The workshop was thus designed to allow participants time to work on their cases, getting the comments of resource persons as well as of their peers; to present these succinctly to different audiences, and to develop a basic plan for the institutionalisation of the approach.
During the four days, participants made a big leap in improving their case study documents, with seven of them producing a final version. There was also a robust discussion on institutionalization. Some participants already had some ideas before coming to the workshop and honed these during the sessions. They prepared fairly well thought out and practical institutionalisation plans, all of which were shared with all those present. Several participants are now looking for the necessary support to get these institutionalisation processes going on, mostly in terms of facilitation and mentoring expertise (and covering some handholding over the initial phase) even as they have garnered internal funds to support all other related activities for this purpose.
Equally interesting were the “sharing and learning” steps seen. One of the participants was pleasantly surprised to hear from another one that, after learning of her geo-spatial tool for locational assistance, they had trained staff under their World Bank-funded project to use it themselves, focusing on the identification of sites to set up wholesale markets for agriculture produce. Several other participants found this similarly interesting and sought her advice. In the same way, another one of the cases being described and analysed, showing the use of mobile applications in development projects, was also seen as a great learning opportunity for others to use in their own projects. The need to enhance this was looked at in detail: how to promote the use of the lessons emerging from the case studies? Participants shared their ideas in the plenary and reviewed a few cases in small groups, showing the need to focus on the possibility of replicating an intervention over larger area, using a wider platform to debate, convincing the finance department, or identify the main gaps and develop a different strategy to overcome failures. This finished with a final review through a full group discussion, followed by sample case review in small groups, and finally review and modification of the individual cases to improve chances of adoptability.
Some of the things I liked most…
Participants shared that at first they were more interested in completing the work than in capturing lessons and sharing them. But the ExCap process changed that. For many it made them go back to the field and collect more information from all stakeholders, trying to get a more elaborate picture. It also meant that they went back not only to the community members, but also to their own colleagues to get fresh insights.
One of the common observations heard was that governments and donors look for evidence-based changes. An experience capitalization process can help in getting that focus. Some participants shared that while most texts focus only on the successes seen, now they show a more complete picture – with many more lessons. For some of them, the workshops were also an opportunity to know about the work done in other areas. Few agreed that their writing skills were poor due to many reasons, including time, but with a facilitator, they found it easier to continue and persist in the task. To many, this has been an empowering exercise. They learnt to write by crystalizing their thoughts, and thus analysing each case in a better way. For some, the first workshop helped them deliver actual outputs in terms of quarterly and monthly magazines of their organization where earlier they only had ideas. The workshop also taught them to write simple pieces using the tools taught. The ExCap journey helped them not just to write pieces with a conclusion, which was just the usual way, but to follow a new way to capture experiences in a comprehensive and stronger manner.