Collective planning from the ground up

Rituu B Nanda

I’m based in Delhi and work for an international non-profit called The Constellation. I encourage communities to engage in the Community Life Competence Process (CLCP).

CLCP is a form of learning cycle where a community takes action and learns from their own experience. The learning then becomes the basis for another round of action and, in turn, learning. The learning cycle can continue indefinitely.

We firmly believe that communities have the capacity to respond when they own the issue they struggle with. This belief is reflected in SALT, our mode of interaction with communities. SALT stands for “Stimulate and Support”, “Appreciate, Authenticity”, “Listen, Learn, Link”, and “Transfer, Team, Trust, Transform

Planning which experience to capitalize. Photo credits: Rituu B Nanda

From reflection to documentation

At Constellation we reflect a lot, but we don’t document systematically. Documentation is important, not only to help with sharing of lessons, but when you document you reflect and learn even more. This is why I decided to participate in the Goa workshop on experience capitalization. I joined the workshop with two colleagues from India who work with me on an immunization project with communities in Assam, Northeast India. A colleague from Indonesia also joined us.

I felt it was important that I didn’t go alone and my colleagues, who spend more time in the field than I do, also have an opportunity to learn about experience capitalization. It is practical to have as many people within the organization ‘on board’ and ready to put in the extra work that an experience capitalization process demands. We don’t have additional budget for this, but together, we do have plenty of enthusiasm – one way of dealing with our financial constraints.

A collective effort

What I like about the methods used for experience capitalization is that they are participatory and reflective. Instead of just the manager of a project writing a document, you sit together with a diverse group to collectively document an experience. Through this, different actors, ranging from people in the communities to field workers and project managers, get a sense of ownership of the process. This is a real strength in the experience capitalization approach, as all too often experiences of the communities, and people in the field  are overlooked. However, the participatory part is also the hardest and most time-consuming part of the process. For example, the planning of our experience capitalization process took a different direction when we involved the grassroots level staff and communities.

When a plan changes course

During the workshop in Goa, my colleagues and I went through the planning exercises. We came out with an idea of what we would find interesting to document. We had a plan to focus on the degree and depth of participation of communities and ownership within the immunization project in Assam.  About one month later, we, the experience capitalization team, had five days in the field together and planned half a day with different people associated with the project – Constellation Global support team members and evaluation team facilitators in the field. After spending time with two different communities, the plan took on a new shape and life.

The village courtesy. Photo credits: Jahirul Choudhury

When we visited the communities and we asked the people what was important to them, we discussed a lot and really wanted to know, “what does your heart say?” This process proved to be so important because, as a result of engaging and listening to the people on the ground, our plan has completely changed.

One community wants to focus the experience capitalization process on men’s involvement in immunization initiatives. And in the second case, the NGO facilitator wants to document the “power of listening.” What has changed as he and other members of his team have begun to actively listen?

Work in progress

Visiting the field shortly after the workshop proved to be really important. We were fresh and ready to dive into the experience capitalization process and at the same time, our ideas and plan was young enough to still be shaped by the collective efforts of the communities and people on the ground. This flexibility is so important when engaging in participatory processes.

For now, my work continues in Delhi. I am still grappling with how to work with all this new input and to make a plan that will ensure our experience capitalization process remains a collective effort. I’ve learned a lot so far and I am eager to continue learning as we complete the full experience capitalization process.

 

© 2016, 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.