Experience Capitalization, the Pacific way

In April 2018, from the 9th to the 12th, a diverse and motivated group of agriculture professionals gathered again in Fiji (Nadi) – eager to be part of the second part of the experience capitalization method.

The four-day intensive workshop had three main goals: 1) to review what has worked (and what hasn’t) in practicing with experience capitalization; 2) for participants to finish writing one (or two) article(s); and 3) to think about what comes next and see experience capitalization in a broader perspective.

Plenary session

Compared to the first workshop, this time we worked with a smaller group of participants. But what a group it was! Even though we were with 14 only, the group demonstrated a genuine interest in participating in the workshop, made an effort to support their colleagues, and clearly saw the value of the methodology in their own work. “Working in a smaller group is much better,” one participant explained. “We can quickly get feedback on our articles and quick access to facilitators when we have questions.”

In writing an article, we focused on one of the most important aspects of writing: the audience. Participants imagined the key characteristics of a (real or fictional) ‘persona’: the person they want their article to reach. Making the idea of the ‘audience’ more alive, it helps the participant empathize with what their target audience would want to read. What makes this person’s heart beat, what gives them pain? As one of the participants said, “be like a friend to him”. As an author, we do not want to push the contents of the article on someone, but we want to show them what is relevant to them.

Thinking about the reader of the article is crucial in experience capitalization. After all, the idea is that someone will eventually use the key insights from the process. This is why the workshop also dedicated time to the idea of ‘adoption’: looking at the case we are presenting from the perspective of using the information. What information do you need to include if a government official wants to use what you have learned? Or when a colleague wants to learn from you? Or a farmer? We practiced with these different potential ‘adopters’.

Another key element of the writing process was when peers review each other’s work. “Having the whole group give feedback was my favourite part of the workshop,” one participant said. “Hearing the comments from different people, who know about the setting I work in, helped a lot to improve my article.” Giving feedback to other participants does more than just improve this one article though. The reviewer learns from other people’s writing as well. But even more importantly, it is one of the ways to let participants grow into the role of experience capitalization “champion”: the reviewer looks at articles and experience capitalization from a different level and practices and learns about giving feedback.

Overall, the workshop alternated writing time with practical exercises, which in turn help to see what is missing in the writing. “If all the writing had been done in one long session, it would have been more difficult,” participants said. It is always a challenge though, to still make enough time for individual writing in workshops like these.

Participants also said that the second workshop, and in particular when looking at adoption and institutionalization, helped to put the entire experience capitalization process in perspective. “In the first workshop we were following the steps, but without a clear overview of the overall significance of the methodology or knowing where we would arrive”, it was said. “We started narrowing down in the first workshop, as we were working on our own case. Now in the second workshop we are expanding again, making us more aware of the entire process.”

© 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.