All too often, development projects come to an abrupt end without those involved having time to analyse the lessons learned and ensure that their activities have a lasting impact. A large grant project managed by CTA and funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), ‘Capitalizing on Experiences for Greater Impact on Rural Development,’ was launched in 2016 to tackle this problem. “The main aim of the project is to help organisations and individuals reflect on their experiences, draw up key lessons, write their stories and inspire others to do better in future,” explains Jorge Chavez-Tafur, CTA Associate Programme Coordinator for Knowledge Management.
Working in partnership with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the project began in East Africa before moving beyond ACP countries to South-east Asia – India and Nepal – and Latin America. Having identified organisations and projects which are keen to benefit from experience capitalization, CTA and its partners convened two workshops in each region.
During the first workshop – the project is ongoing – participants are asked to choose the experiences they wish to focus on before carrying out a detailed analysis of the lessons learned. During the second workshop, participants write and present their stories before preparing an ‘action plan’ for the upcoming months. By the end of 2017, most of the workshops had been completed and the 3-year project was moving onto the next phase, which involves the dissemination of the stories.
An example of the sort of stories being produced under the auspices of the project comes from a workshop in Tanzania during which the Kenyan Livestock Producers Association (KLPA) was able to reflect on an agribusiness trade fair which it had organised in October 2016 in Laikipia county, Kenya. The fair attracted over 6,000 farmers, providing them with access to information, services and training. Around 70 companies, including manufacturers, businesses involved in the livestock trade and financial institutions, attended the fair to promote their products and services. The story which emerged from the workshop shows that agribusiness fairs like this can increase farmers yields and incomes, reduce the sale of counterfeit goods and help service providers increase their business. These are precisely the sort of lessons that could encourage other organisations to mount similar ventures.
“Our project is not just a one-off,” says Chavez-Tafur. He and his colleagues are hoping that those involved in the workshops will carry out similar exercises in future and use their newfound skills to help other organisations use the experience capitalisation methodology to evaluate their own projects. A training manual and an e-learning course on experience capitalization provides guidance to those involved.
A Community of Practice has provided an electronic platform for 380 members to share their experiences. Like the workshops, this is enabling individuals and organisations to identify specific innovations and practices that can help to further rural development and influence project design. The Community of Practice will help to improve the ability of development practitioners to analyse, document, use and share the lessons learned from their projects. An important resource is the experience capitalization website. This not only shows what the project is about, but also provides a platform for people to exchange information and ideas