“What am I going to do to make this happen?”

Susan Watkins

Before I arrived at the first workshop, I’d read through different things on the Internet to try and understand what Experience Capitalisation was. I could see its value to my organisation immediately.

Afterwards, I was able to explain to all program staff about the basic concept of Experience Capitalisation and what the value of the process could be to Canadian Feed The Children. Following that training, I decided the next step would be to choose people who could help me start the process of bringing it into our normal monitoring and evaluation processes.

I chose the people that were most likely to being doing this kind of work routinely, and asked them to go out and do a trial, to test out this new approach to gathering qualitative data.

We went out to one of our local communities and interviewed a group of women beneficiaries about what the Canadian Feed The Children had done to give them access to savings and credit opportunities. It’s really essential to understand the challenges faced by women and how they overcome them so that we can change the way we run these kinds of interventions. We asked the women what the intervention was about, and what had happened afterwards. They were asked to think about its meaning and how it had really affected their lives or indeed changed their lives.

Following that, we wrote an article on how the process worked and came out with some interesting innovations that we can replicate in future. They weren’t totally unexpected but I don’t know if anyone has ever written them down before.

Institutionalising the process

Not everybody, or every organisation, can devote the time to do a full training. But I see this training as the beginning of something that is very important. It is worth putting in the time to pass on the information. It’s better to learn by discovery, but the basic information can be communicated quickly.

The Experience Capitalisation approach is not so wildly different towhat we already do when we gather qualitative data – we interview people in focus groups and try to get a range of information. I think that Canadian Feed The Children definitely has those skills, but in the past we’ve gathered a lot of qualitative data and sometimes we don’t really handle it well because it can be bulky and a bit unwieldy for analysis.

However, through the Experience Capitalization process people are actually bringing to the fore the highlights of the intervention, you don’t have to sit back and think, “Well, what does this mean?” because that is what the beneficiaries or actors are telling you. The information is there, and this is what makes the analysis part easier. I think that, going forward, I would like my NGO to use Capitalization of Experience, just so we get to the next level faster and share those experiences more widely. A lot of organisations have done similar savings and loan interventions, and we’re all learning. Each of us think about how to massage the available models to better suit our objectives – some of the things people are coming up with are really revolutionary and if these approaches were better advertised I think they would be adopted faster.

The beauty of being the leader

I was thinking that it’s the people that are sent to these trainings who are the key. In my case, I am a decision-maker-practitioner so I’m very interested in the field-work, and I’m very hands-on. As “the Leader,” when I hear an idea or I see something useful, I can apply it to our work locally – bring it back to the office and train the staff. People who are more concerned with overall policy may not react instinctively to adopt such a new, field-based practice.

I am one of five country directors who report to a Head office. I believe that the other Country Offices will see, as I do, the value of the Experience Capitalisation process. Now, in order to institutionalise EC, I will have to convince Head Office that this is the model that we should choose and apply as an organisation.

I realise that I will also need to get the monitoring and evaluation staff on board. Sometimes people see no need to step into the brave new world – because they believe that theirs is the most brilliant approach and that there’s no need to change – but life is change and adaptation is survival.

I think that we could send a short training video to the other offices, and then they can ask questions. I’d make myself available for questions and advice. Someone could ask, “Oh, I saw this in the video, what was that about?” and with the training material CTA has provided they could get a deeper understanding of Experience Capitalisation before we moved on to a formal, organisation-wide training.

Once that’s done, I think that it will be easier to institutionalise. Can I convince the Head Office that this is the model to use? Yes, I don’t think that I’ll face that great a challenge. I was able to train the full country program staff, about 50 people: they understood what I was trying to explain in less than two hours.

The way forward?

I don’t think it is a great leap from Canadian Feed The Children’s current approach. I think that we’re well positioned to take on Experience Capitalization.The processes are enlivening and entertaining, and adding to what people already do is a good foundation.

The workshops worked well and I think that the good ideas came out. But to change processes institutionally you have to be progressive and yet dogged at the same time: you can’t just imagine that it’ll happen overnight, you have to actively think, “What am I going to do to make this happen?” We’re a small organisation, so I wear many hats; a Leader, and a practitioner as well, which is a great advantage to scooping up Experience Capitalization and running with it.

 

 

 

© 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.