Experience Capitalization in South-East Asia

Pankaj Shrivastav

A new capitalization process started with a first workshop in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with representatives of organizations based in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines, and with the support of the Asia Indigenous People’s Pact, AIPP.

This meeting took place between the 31st of July and the 4th of August, 2017, following the same method and approach being tried in other cases and regions by the “Experience Capitalization for Greater Impact” project. In short, this first workshop was planned to present the FAO / IMARK “learning module” and discuss the best approach to encourage its use; present the main concepts and ideas regarding an experience capitalization approach; and discuss a general methodology, and the steps to follow so as to ensure that it is completed. But we were especially interested in starting an experience capitalization process: selecting a specific case, identifying a list of people who need to be involved, finding information and organising it, analysing each case and drawing conclusions, and preparing for the dissemination of these results.

Generating lessons

Building the case

The meeting opened with a general presentation of the project, and of the objectives of the current workshop and of the processes we were all starting. trying not to have a one-way flow of ideas, a first session, for example, followed a “news channel” or TV talk show format, with a “show host” who talked to a “panel”. Here, a lively discussion focused on the importance of capturing knowledge – especially when thinking of the broad objectives of every organisation represented in the room. Most groups, however, face a number of difficulties: the participation of all beneficiaries is difficult, and in some cases the authorities keep a very close watch on all activities. One participant mentioned the difficulties seen when collecting information because of the collusion between private companies and the local government officials. Another one mentioned that quite a lot of the information collected and shared by CSOs or NGOs is often not accepted by the government.

A later session focused on the advantages and disadvantages of online learning modules, such as the one now available on experience capitalization. Following the fish-bowl technique (with an inner and an outer circle), participants concluded that “digital is the new medium”, with people benefitting as online courses are generally free and can be taken anywhere, or accessed at any time. Yet, at the same time, it may be difficult for communities or individuals who do not have access to electricity, internet or computers. Some people thought that the course needs to multi-lingual if it is to be followed by diverse stakeholders, and that reading content could be reduced (and audio-video content could be increased) to overcome literacy issues. They also mentioned that in a number of communities, women face cultural constraints in accessing such courses – something which is not easy to solve.

Learning by doing

Participants were invited to start a capitalization process, focusing on a particular experience. They were asked to outline this experience and to describe it in detail, and then to analyse it by looking at the mains reasons for success, or at the main limiting factors. But in addition to the regular process of organising information (using templates tables to fill in, as tried elsewhere), we talked about the final products, and about the need to adapt these to the audience we want to reach. Next to this, we also paid attention to the tools and techniques normally used when collecting data and information, considering both qualitative and quantitative tools. The group was asked to think about the likely problems that may arise during data collection, and participants mentioned the need to understand the local culture and customs, and the need to use different languages, “so that you can build rapport with respondents”. Most village people are very busy, so there is a need to plan the whole process in detail, and to use visual, participatory tools – e.g. PRA – for better results. Most important, “there is always a need to dig deeper, or to go below the iceberg to understand what is happening, and not be satisfied with superficial data”. In other words, “the need to ask why is this happening?

Building on the different discussions we had around communications, participants developed a “sharing plan” and a broader “Action Plan”, helping them visualise the various tasks all of them committed to. We also discussed the idea of a Community of Practice, and the advantages of joining one.

Improving the model

This workshop followed the model tried before, but we also improved it. On the day after the participants arrived, AIPP organised a field trip to an indigenous people’s village (the Karen community). Participants were able to understand the land rights issues being faced by the community, and also visit the forests that are protected using indigenous customs. They also saw the various products produced and exported by the community, in addition to tasting an excellent lunch cooked in traditional style. This helped the participants to get to know each other informally and helped break the ice. But at the same time, for example, it showed the need to use different techniques to obtain information.

We also had a group of participants summarising the work done every day, and sharing it. We tried different feedback mechanisms, such as differently coloured whip cards (green for “what I liked” and pink for “what could be better”), all of which were collected and presented every day, and also a visual “Mood Chart” which participants marked as they left the room. A photography competition was also announced on the first day and the winners were declared on the last day. The daily feedback sessions helped the facilitators to dynamically adjust the workshop delivery and arrangements.

A few recommendations

Having English as the workshop language proved to be a challenge for both participants and facilitators. Most participants could understand English, but they found it difficult to   comprehend each other’s accents. As a way to work around this problem, the facilitators designed the sessions in such a way that the group work was done in country teams, in their own language. Facilitators spoke slowly and repeated the concepts as many times as necessary, apart from mentoring with each group separately. Also, where possible, the facilitators included videos and Q & A style of presentations to enhance comprehension. Still, we felt that it might be necessary to invite interpreters / translators to a meeting like this one next time.

Next to this, we also felt that the slides prepared by CTA need a serious communications overhaul. In the attempt to do a common branding, the slides have been standardised to such an extent that sometimes two consecutive slides have the same layout, the same pictures with just text changes. Also, the pictures are repetitive. A few participants mentioned that this decreases the cognitive acceptance and reduces the impact of the slides.

Nevertheless, in spite of the difficulties, we are very happy with the results. These can be attributed to the “intensive individual attention” and to the support provided by the facilitators, or also to the very comfortable workshop environment. Even more, we think we had great results because this is a very committed group. Many thanks to all!


© 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.