GIZ, through its CCA-RAI programme in India, worked to promote a climate change adaptation policy for rural populations, vulnerable to the uncertainty and negative consequences of changing climate. Towards this goal, it supported several promising adaptation-related innovations with partners across the country. Systematization was introduced as a methodology to document learning. At approximately the same time, and as part of its many activities, the ENRAP project supported a training of trainers’ workshop on systematization, for knowledge facilitators from all the ongoing IFAD-supported projects in China. Although both efforts took place a few years ago, the lessons drawn are still valid:
Something that worked very well was introducing the approach early in project life: Learning about systematization at a time when teams were finalizing their pilot proposal impacted the project and its strategy. Systematization forced teams to clarify the project intent and come to a common understanding about it. And this was most evident when teams were trying to come up with the question that they would most like to study at mid-term. Several exchanges within the implementation team, with or without the facilitator, and with CCA-RAI were time consuming but in the end acknowledged as helpful in bringing everyone on the same page and working out the project strategy. It was probably also an opportunity to compare M&E and systematization for their benefits to the project.
The purpose of a systematization process should also be clearly defined before deciding the key questions and aspects to look at while in the field. Different purposes entail different scope and entry points for the review and presentation of the findings and lessons. Basically, the purposes can be grouped into (1) within project/country program learning and, (2) beyond project sharing/influencing, or both of them.
Equally positive is to select experienced development professionals to be facilitators. Since systematization is not widely known or followed, there are not a lot of experienced facilitators. CCA-RAI chose to work with some of its regular consultants with good understanding of climate change adaptation issues and realities of working with communities. They were also experienced at facilitation and capacity building. These helped them connect with implementation teams, senior management in pilot organisations and communities supporting the process of planning and applying systematization.
A challenging aspect can be to fix a time for the exercise: In general, this has not been easy. And facilitators worked hard with pilot organizations to freeze dates, which kept changing for various reasons. This resulted in delay in almost all exercises. At the same time, staff turnover and ensuring availability of all team members during the on-site exercise, was not easy. While staff turnover is not unusual, because systematization was a new methodology for most and the pilots are short-duration, this became particularly detrimental for planning and implementation of systematization. In cases where implementing staff was not available fully during systematization, this problem worsened.
One of the key recommendations coming from the analysis was to prepare all activities well in advance, focusing both on the budget (ensuring the necessary resources for a preparatory phase) and on the involvement of all team members and participants.
The systematization method should be used with certain flexibility, suiting the specific purposes and needs, as the whole process is time consuming and involves a considerable number of person-days. Knowing the background of the project/subject is utmost important to ensure systematization exercise results in useful findings and learning. In cases where the project staff already has good knowledge about the project and about its specific components and areas, the exercise can be conducted in a more condensed manner by minimizing the preparations phase. Similarly, a systematization exercise can also be extended to a longer duration with intervals as long as the focus is maintained and the required information is collected. The participants at the training of trainers workshop also thought that the use of field investigation tools should not be rigid as situation varies on the real ground, while the principles and objectives are to be maintained.
Systematization training should ideally consider an adequate time for preparation, including advance discussions to familiarize participants with the project, involve local stakeholders and the community, prepare secondary data and information, etc. Adequate time would also be required for trainees to go through all the steps following a real systematization exercise. Nevertheless, the systematization training in China tends to suggest that, for the sake of learning the method and the principles in which it is based, a compact program would also serve the purpose, while additional capacity building support in practicing field investigation tools may be organized separately.
A systematization exercise needs to be linked closely with a project’s M&E system and to the project logframe, so that the entry point of the exercise clearly defines which level of the systematic review will take place and findings will address to, e.g. whether it plans to review project implementation at an activity/output level and capture experiences at the same level, or to review this at an outcome/impact level and generate lessons which are broader.
This text was taken from the 2012 Report of Orientation-Training on Systematization Technique for Capturing Project Experiences in IFAD China Country Program, by Yinhong Sun, and from the 2013 Report, Experience with Systematization in the context of CCA-RAI pilot projects on climate change adaptation in rural India.