Systematization to capture project experiences: A guide
This guide is based on ENRAP’s experience, in particular on an exercise conducted on request of the North Eastern Regional Community Resource Management Project (NERCRMP) in Meghalaya, India. It starts by defining systematisation as an evaluative and participatory technique for documentation. It is a methodology that, with the help of a facilitator, helps projects describe and analyse the situation before a project intervention, after the intervention, and the process of change which results from it.
The process is not simply “stories from the field”, but a more in-depth analysis and review of project experiences. Its objectives therefore include assessing project influence and impact; assessing emerging needs for achieving project objectives; learning about unintended outcomes; capturing lessons and sharing them in different ways. The uniqueness of this process “lies in bringing all primary stakeholders at a common platform”.
The systematisation process
The process is divided into three stages, covering a total of 13 interlinked steps.
Stage I, Grounding. This first stage prepares the process, covering a suggested period of approximately 30 days. This includes:
- selecting questions based on the themes or interventions that the project wants to study;
- forming teams, representing all stakeholders, and dividing responsibilities among its members;
- identifying a facilitator to conduct the process (preferably one who understands the process and knows about participatory approaches);
- training of teams, so as to ensure that all team members are aware of basic participatory tools. It may also be advisable to train team members on report and case study writing, and on the analysis of the data generated;
- village selection, identifying the project villages for field study on the basis of given criteria. Selected villages should not only include the best performing communities, but also those where the project did not work well; and
- collecting secondary data, including the project baseline survey and implementation records. Possible sources for additional data should also be identifie
Stage II, Strategy, field visit and documentation. In approximately seven to eight days, the team visits the field and documents their learnings and findings. The five steps which make this phase include:
- team briefing, reviewing the process going on, and including an overview of the project’s objectives and activities;
- team meetings and preparation. This step consolidates the work of Stage I: team members discuss the key question once again and prepare to go to the field;
- field visits, with the main objective of collecting information. This will mean interviews, focus groups discussions, transit walks, and other participatory tools. Regular summing up meetings can help assess progress and also identify tasks that still need to be done;
- documentation. When the teams are back from the field, the facilitators guide them in the report writing process. Documents must include the successes or failures of project interventions; and
- presentation and finalising findings. All teams come together to present their findings to other teams for their critical comments and suggestions.
Stage III, Sharing and dissemination. The systematisation process is completed when results are validated and when others learn from the project’s experience. In approximately 30 days, this means:
- sharing findings. Documents are prepared and circulated among all the project stakeholders and partners. These provide feedback and suggestions, contributing to mutual learning; and
- preparing communication products for targeted audiences. Information resulting from the process is repackaged to develop communication products for various target audiences, including flyers, videos, cards, etc.
The guide finishes with a detailed description of the roles and responsibilities of a systematisation facilitator, as well as with general tips for managing participants. It also includes the questionnaire used by NERCRMP, basically looking at the situation found before the project started, and then at the situation after the project interventions had taken place.