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Experience capitalisation as a worldwide practice

Rural development practitioners converting experience into knowledge capital

April 19, 2017

A series of successful workshops in different parts of the world have kicked off a CTA project to make experience capitalisation a standard process for use in rural development organisations.

The Capitalisation of Experiences for Greater Impact in Rural Development project is working to mainstream the experience capitalisation approach across rural development initiatives, providing answers to the problem of sharing knowledge within organisations.

This knowledge management project is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and run in partnership with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

The experience capitalisation process

Experience capitalisation helps describe and analyse experiences in general, or a specific part of a project or programme, and identifies lessons to share and use to improve future development interventions. Through experience capitalisation, organisations can develop better documentation and sharing of lessons learned to aid their adoption and use. The methodology is an advanced approach to continuous learning, improvement and scaling up.

CTA Senior Programme Coordinator, Krishan Bheenick who is coordinating the three-year project said CTA is working with many projects and organisations in various parts of the world. Capacity building workshops, using a recently launched e-learning course on the experience capitalisation, have been conducted across East Africa: in Arusha in March, after earlier meetings in Nairobi and Kigali. A West African workshop was also held in Accra in March, and another in Goa, India for the South Asia region in April. Upcoming meetings are planned for Latin America, Eastern Asia and French-speaking Western and Central Africa.

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Taking the process back to the workplace

Jorge Chavez-Tafur, who wrote much of the curriculum of the e-learning course and is now CTA's Associate Programme Coordinator implementing the project, explained that workshop attendees not only complete an experience capitalisation process as part of the workshops, but also return to their respective organisations with the intent of making the process a regular activity within these bodies.

"It is helping them start and complete a capitalisation process, and also helping many participants become trainers, and then involve others," he said. "Our main objective is the institutionalisation of the approach.

"The project is helping us demonstrate the many benefits of the approach, and we are practising what we preach," said Jorge, explaining that, as part of the project, CTA is describing and analysing what has been done, drawing lessons from that process, and sharing them to further their impact.

He is thrilled with the motivation shown by workshop participants. One attendee from Tanzania wrote that "we are ready to document our failures and successes and to see this approach integrated into our daily activities as the knowledge and skills received during the workshop were highly practical."

Workshop agenda

A participant from Kenya described the process followed: "We've had two meetings where we started the process by defining experience capitalisation and its elements, while individually developing an experience to share for the purposes of generating knowledge for change.

"In the first workshop the groups were taken through the concepts of framing of experience capitalisation, planning for it, gathering and organising information for capitalisation and analysis of experiences.

"In this second workshop, participants went a step further and started the process of documentation. We have now drafts of the experiences that will go through editing for purposes of preparing them for publication.

"This has been a very exciting workshop and we are looking forward to have our first experience capitalisation product being published, shared and used to bring about positive social change in agricultural and rural development."

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Everyday processes

A participant from Uganda thought the experience capitalisation terminology was difficult to grasp at first, but then made a discovery: "it is what I do every day. What we discussed in the meetings is basically how to do it better!"

"I learned the art of documentation and of sharing experiences and it is good to do this systematically.

"It was key for me to learn that it is not as hard, technical or tough to share experiences as I had always felt, it's a matter of sharing and letting the audience pick its lessons. All experience is important you can never know what your target is interested in understanding"

"What matters is sharing. Above all it is very important for me to tease out the uniqueness of our work and the good results we are having"

"It enabled me to share experience in order to impact my society because no one would know if we do not share. I pledge to emphasise experience capitalisation to my colleagues at work and my home area as this is clearly a highway leading to learning."

Find out more

Read the project brief
Discover more about the IMARK e-learning courses
Join the project to learn more

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