Experience Capitalization in Central Asia

Botir Dosov

The process of promoting an experience capitalization approach in Central Asia started in 2017, building on an initiative that focused on the collection of good practices on the use of ICTs in agri-food systems. One of its first steps was the identification of primary and secondary material in Russian. A team of three persons, including Nevena Alexandrova (FAO Innovation Systems and Knowledge Sharing Officer), Sophie Treinen (Information and Knowledge Management Officer) and Botir Dosov (FAO consultant for Agricultural Innovation Systems), set the plan for the translation and adaptation of the resources available in English, and the consequent promotion of the Experience Capitalization approach in Russian-speaking countries.

Completed a couple of years ago, the FAO / IMARK online course on experience capitalization (http://www.fao.org/elearning/#/elc/en/course/EXCAP) is already available in different languages. This is a set of thirteen lessons grouped in five modules or units:
Unit 1, “Introduction”, develops an understanding of the experience capitalization concept and process, and presents the main benefits it brings;
Unit 2, “Facilitate”, focuses on what facilitation is, and how it can help achieve the objectives of the experience capitalization process;
Unit 3, “Prepare”, addresses the preparation phase for an experience capitalization process, starting with the identification or selection of a specific experience, and of those who are going to join the process;
Unit 4, “Implement”, leads the learner in detail through the steps needed to successfully implement an experience capitalization process; and
Unit 5, “Generate change”, highlights the process’ central objective of ensuring that new knowledge is used to generate tangible change. This unit focuses on how this can be achieved.

The course also provides diversity of tools, methods, case studies and many other references for in-depth learning.

Its translation and adaptation into Russian started in September 2017, and is now complete: it is expected that the online course will be available by the end of November 2018. This will help projects and organizations adopt and promote a capitalization approach in the Central Asia region and in the countries in the Caucasus. The free online course will help all FAO and UN projects, as well as all those organizations supporting rural development initiatives, in their efforts to increase learning; avoid knowledge loss, increase their general efficiency and effectiveness; generate change, support their team-building and networking efforts, and advocate and inform policy.

This, however, was not an easy process. Those behind it had to consider that there is a large number of words being used in Russian to express a similar concept or idea, and that there were different materials already available for learners and practitioners. The process required a thorough review of the existing resources available in Russian, and a detailed consultation process among experts to agree what term would fit better and would be more acceptable to the Russian-speaking learner. Some terms and methods, such as for example, “speed-geeking” or “fish bowl”, are new or rarely used in this region. This forced the team of experts, translators and editors to thoroughly discuss the content of the course, and review all definitions. This process took almost sixteen months.

Information and seminars
The translation and adaptation process also considered a series of seminars. In September 2017, Sophie Treinen organized and facilitated two seminars on experience capitalization in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, during which participants learned about the process and the e-learning course. The seminars were attached to the national workshop on ‘Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security’ organized by the FAO office for Europe and Central Asia.

A thorough revision

Additionally, a dedicated workshop on experience capitalisation and good practices was held at the FAO Kyrgyzstan premises in December 2017 for FAO staff and FAO project staff. That was a follow up of the earlier seminar, organised at the request of some of the participants who wanted to start the capitalization exercise before the end of the year.

The purpose of the workshop was to help participants identify the experience they could consider to capitalize on, and to plan its process. During the workshop, participants started the documentation of these experiences, checking what information was already available and what were are the gaps. The workshop was facilitated in English by Sophie Treinen and in Russian by Botir Dosov.

Mainstreaming EC
As part of these efforts, experience capitalization has already been mainstreamed as part of the working plan of the Central Asia and the Caucasus Forum for Rural Advisory Services (CAC-FRAS) for 2019. This is a platform established to provide assistance and technical leadership on rural advisory services (RAS) in accordance with the regional and national development priorities. CAC-FRAS focuses on the need for leadership, professionalization, knowledge sharing and mobilization of RAS, and works to develop more efficient and sustainable agricultural innovation systems. To fulfill its vision and mission, CAC-FRAS centers on strengthening the organizational and institutional capacities of the rural advisory systems (RAS) in the region; raising awareness of the importance and promotion of effective RAS; facilitating an enabling environment for the development of Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS), and on the development of cooperation linkages between different countries.

CAC-FRAS is particularly interested in an experience capitalization approach as this provides a clear methodology for drawing lessons which can then be adopted and adapted in the field. As part of its mission, it is especially interested in helping learners and practitioners with a clear guidance and tools to plan and implement their own experience capitalization process, and ensure its efficiency and effectiveness.

CAC-FRAS has developed a short video regarding the “Innovation Adoption Cycle” in Russian (https://youtu.be/GwQuGDghAbU), referring to the FAO online-course on experience capitalization. The integration of an experience capitalization approach into the CAC-FRAS strategy and action plan was also presented in the video uploaded on YouTube https://youtu.be/UJXTVSGH8pw (in Russian). The video explains why experience capitalization is important and now part of CAC-FRAS’ work.

The FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia is now planning to organize a face-to-face practical training course on experience capitalization. Working together with CAC-FRAS, this is expected to help:
• introduce the methodology and process on experience capitalization;
• identify or acknowledge the value of experience capitalization in their work;
• build skills to use experience capitalization in their work; and
• be able to use and help other individuals and organizations to use experience capitalization.

Next steps
The potential benefits of an experience capitalization process in development initiatives in post-Soviet countries is increasingly being recognized. Still, its promotion and adoption faces many obstacles. Organizations and individuals are too busy with their day-to-day work to get started – something which seems ironic, as the operationalization of experience capitalization could help them increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their work. Other critical voices mention that organizations and individuals are very conservative, and prefer not to come out of their ‘comfort zone’.

But CAC-FRAS is convinced of the many benefits it can bring. At this early stage it has therefore selected a primary target group, focusing on those willing to take the lead, try a new innovation and find a practical use for such innovation, and then communicate the results to others. With seminars, webinars and different training sessions, CAC-FRAS is working with those who can play an important role in influencing the attitudes and behaviour of the later adopters. In addition to the adoption of the process, our work focuses on its adaptation, paying special attention to the local and organizational context, and also to the rapidly changing environment. We are working with organization and individuals that are interested and focused on processing the value from an experience in order to be more efficient and effective, and show more and (even) better results.

The organizations in Central Asia and the Caucasus countries face many problems. We feel that experience capitalization can help us address many of these difficulties, and we are convinced that, step-by-step, it will mainstreamed in the region’s development initiatives.

© 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.