For several years, we at Syecomp have been engaged in implementing projects – funded by national and international donors – and we have found that our key constraints have been documenting the impact of our work and sharing it effectively with the general public. When my colleagues and I heard about Experience Capitalisation, we were very interested.
Syecomp was funded to implement a 14-month proof-of-concept project with CTA, and our team was called upon to document its impact on the beneficiaries – in this case the small-holder farmers and the extension officers – and also on Syecomp itself, as the implementing company.
We found the processes suited us
As part of this process my colleagues and I read a lot of literature about Experience Capitalisation, and attended a couple of writing workshops. They were designed to reinforce the guidelines around how to present stories. We discovered during the course of seminars and exercises that documentation is not simply concerned with writing purely quantitative accounts. How the processes were carried out, how many people attended training, and of their outcomes, and so forth, are only aspects of the result. No, we started to think more about how to ‘storify:’ how we present engaging narratives from the perspectives of all those involved with or affected by the project.
We realised that our own processes are not too dissimilar from those we learnt about at the workshops. But we came to understand that there were, in fact, a lot more levels, many more points of interest that we could include in our writing to help us engage better with the wider public: we discovered through the workshops that we could apply a kind of ‘value addition’ to our written reports.
What we’ve changed
For example, we might previously have developed a report about our project’s beneficiaries. But with the Experience Capitalisation process we are now looking beyond just the simple, face-value facts toward the whole scope of the project, at the various sections within the project as implemented, and trying to analyse each and every component: the objective of the project; the institutions outside it; our experience of implementing it; and then how the ideas follow-up – whether, for example, to truncate the project or think of innovative ways to actually grow or expand it.
This is something very new to a lot of us, especially private-social enterprises in Ghana. You’re no longer focussing simply on individual beneficiaries of a project; you’re looking at the project in its entirety. I think that this is something that we will incorporate into our internal operations, too: at Syecomp we implement a lot of projects for commercial agribusinesses, and if we can disseminate to potential partners what we can learn and how effectively we can work then we’ll get a lot more collaborators and possibly even funded projects. So, I think that Experience Capitalisation is actually a way forward in terms of project documentation, in terms of project write-ups and so on and, for social enterprises in particular, that’s a real head-start.
Working as a team
We realised at Syecomp that, from the start of the process, everyone involved was going to have a good knowledge and understanding of the processes involved with Experience Capitalisation. My colleagues who attended the first workshop made sure when they returned to the office that they briefed the rest of us as fully as they could. We all asked them questions and tried to clear up any issues of understanding between us, referring to what they remembered and cross-checking it with the available literature. It’s not just one person from my company participating. Everyone understands their role in the project and how to use the Experience Capitalisation process to document what we do. We all enjoyed learning from each other, and the knowledge is easily transferable. So much so, in fact, that even though one person who attended the workshops in Accra was unable to attend the Ede workshop, I was able to step in without hesitation; and I feel that I was able to make some meaningful contributions to the proceedings.
Over the course of this most recent workshop, we have come to realise that Experience Capitalisation needs a more of a team-based approach. There are a lot of different competencies involved when you are designing and implementing a project. Let me explain: there’s a project designer; a project implementer; and then there’s the team member who does the impact evaluation. And let’s not forget the beneficiaries! But, with Experience Capitalisation, all of the team-members can come together and look at every individual – funders, team members, the various beneficiaries, the roles they all play in the project – and bring on board their ideas. This provides for a much more comprehensive way of documenting a project – yet without losing sight of its key areas.
So one of the key things that my colleagues and I will take away from this workshop is how better to use ‘the table.’ And by that I mean constructing a table and using all of the boxes it contains to capture all the components of the project. It means that nothing gets overlooked. It’s not like a business-model canvas, it’s bigger and therefore more comprehensive, and all of the boxes in the table go together to capture the flow of the project. It sounds like it should be more difficult, more complicated, but what we find is that by referring to the structure of the table, it’s almost impossible to miss anything out when you’re writing-up. It actually makes our work very easy. The tool is very, very useful. We’ve used it in our office since we were first introduced to it and our writing has developed very satisfactorily, and we realised that it is very collaborative, too. Our team members understand how to use the table, how and when to feed information into the various fields so that. When writing-up, the facts can be teased out and we come away with clear summary of what happened and that’s really easy to share with anyone who’s interested.
The way forward
But, you know the surprising thing that has come out of this? We had written a very good grant-completion report for USAID, we’d come out with a position paper that was submitted nationally and shared globally, but we didn’t do any internalisation of the whole project, just a general report. But now, with these techniques, we’re going to publish a revised report on our learning portal, and then the whole world will be able to have a look at the Experience Capitalisation approach. It’s very different from our existing practises of just writing reports for the funder, so this has been very helpful for us!