The experience of capitalization process that we completed during the first half of 2017 changed the way I look at things. Now, when I collect information, I really ask myself: OK, what difference did this activity make – and why does it matter?
Soon after the workshops we had in Maputo, I went into the field to collect information for the final report of the project where I work. “I think we should do a capitalization with the information we were collecting about the savings groups in different regions and share it”, I told my colleague. Unfortunately, we will not be able to do this, as time would be too short for it. Yet, the idea of “framing” a case guided my whole mission in the provinces this time. I was constantly asking myself about our impact, and about the difference our activities made for the beneficiaries, after all these years. What was the situation at the beginning, and what exactly changed since we started in 2012 – and why?
The essence of your story
I think that clearly identifying a case and defining what we want to find out, is crucial. In our work, we are particularly interested in the perspectives of the women. We want to look at the changes they perceive in their lives. Because in most of the places we have been working, you know, the houses are built from straw. But now women are building these ‘casas melhoradas’ . By joining a savings group, they are able to buy the needed materials. So, the questions we are asking now are, how did you do it? How much money were you able to save and how much was left to get into business the following year – and how much you made then? And just as important: what motivated these women to continue saving?
Defining a clear goal for a field visit is important because, in practice, when you arrive at the community, people do not have a lot of time. So, this helps you to make more relevant questions, and this, in turn, prevents you from getting irrelevant answers. Framing the process makes easier to select the parameters and indicators that will lead to better questions, and therefore to much better answers.
I have been collecting a lot of information all these years, only to realize that it was not good to put it all in the same document. The way I see it now, I could come out with three types of different reports for the work we’ve done in each province, each one of them meant for a different target group. One report would merely relate what happened, and when – perhaps the type of stories that are more interesting for donors who only want to see what happened with their money. Another one would focus on the practicalities of the process, paying special attention to the perspectives of those in the field. Here is where I would use a lot of pictures, and also add the quotes of the women interviewed. For a third type of article I do not need to use pictures, but rather say what other people are interested in reading: a description of the technical aspects, or of the protocols that need to be followed when implementing a savings scheme.
Looking back at the experience capitalization process we tried, I can say that I learnt a lot about framing and about the importance of having a clear focus. Not all the information that seems important to collect in the field is relevant, and it doesn’t need to be included in the final article. We always have the set of tables we prepared, and we can always write another article. (We always have the tables.) This is why I think that in the next capitalization training workshop everybody should join the “fire talk” exercise like the one we had in Maputo, as this really helps. I wanted to, but I did not feel confident enough to talk.
But now I see that sharing the key elements of one’s experience helps one to distillate what is relevant and what is not. This way, even if slowly, the essence of your story is seeping through. You avoid the longwinded tendency many of us have.
At the same time, both during and after the workshop, it has been good to write the article together with one of my colleagues, because in this way you go through a similar process, discussing a lot while doing it. This is also framing. This may mean that the whole writing process takes longer, and that it stresses you more than when you write alone. You organise and filter all the information that is available, and you show a much stronger idea. When you write alone, you just do it.
A new set of tools
Going through an experience capitalization process has completely changed the way I look at things, and the way I do things. To be honest, the first days of the workshop were not very clear. But the figure that Marta shared, and the discussion we had around it, really helped a lot. And the tables we filled, they were very useful! I see myself doing the same thing in other situations. The whole process gave me a set of tools which I can now use many times.
I often follow what people are posting in the Dgroups, which I find to be very helpful. I want to learn more because I do hope to find an opportunity to apply this methodology again. Even though I might be leaving the project, I will find a way of completing a new capitalization process on it! There are a lot of opportunities here in Maputo. All I need to do is to collect information and organise it properly – and sit down and write.