Sistematización de experiencias locales de desarrollo rural: Guía metodológica
This is a revised edition of the guide published in 2000, which has been used to document many of the projects supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Latin America. It starts by looking at “sistematización” as a concept, presenting different definitions, and looking at the main ideas behind these definitions (e.g., that it is based on critical reflections, or that it is a participatory process). The first part of this document also looks at the role which such a process has (or must have) within a project.
The second chapter looks in detail at the many different experiences which can be documented, and then at the main purpose of a systematisation process. The next section presents a general model, as a basic framework to follow. This highlights the importance of involving different stakeholders throughout the process, aiming to have “multiple perspectives”, and the need for defining a set of working hypotheses. The framework looks in detail at the initial situation and context, at the intervention process, at the current (or resulting) situation, and at the main lessons or recommendations.
A systematisation methology
On the basis of the model described above, the guide then presents a methodology, divided into 12 steps.
- Formation of the systematisation team. The first step is to set up a team, selecting representatives of different institutions and inviting those who have been actively involved in the experience to be documented. Ideally, a team must include between 6 and 8 persons.
- Selection of the experience. Having chosen a specific theme to look at, the team then needs to identify the most relevant or interesting experience. This is based on a series of criteria, such as its relative size, or its results.
- Definition of the experience’s main turning points. This step aims to look at the initial situation and context, and then describe the experience itself as a chronological sequence of activities. The timeline drawn needs to show when and how activities took place, and also who was involved at each point.
- Definition of the main focus point. The initial planning process continues with identifying the main aspects or elements on which the systematisation process will focus: what precisely do we want to learn from this experience?
- Identification of the main actors involved. Following from the objective of including “multiple perspectives”, it is necessary to identify all those individuals and institutions who were part of the process. They are then invited to provide information and, more importantly, to give their opinions.
- Compilation and analysis of the information available. This step puts together the secondary sources of information, including all project documents (proposals, reports, etc.). It is necessary to look at what type of information is included in each case, and determine its potential use.
- Formulation of questions or working hypothesis. Having defined the aspects which are to be looked at in detail, the next step is to formulate the questions which will help with the analysis, and which will guide the interviews or focus groups.
- Individual and group interviews. Taking into account the results of the previous steps, at this moment it is necessary to determine who will be interviewed, and what exactly will be asked. Interviewees may be chosen purposefully, on the basis of their potential contribution. “Participant observation” may also be used as a complement to all interviews.
- Organisation and analysis of the information gathered. The information obtained is organised according to the main elements of the process: the initial situation, the intervention process, the current situation, the main findings and lessons, and the recommendations. Depending on the number of information sources, this can be done manually or with computers.
- Feedback. This step focuses on the analysis of the whole experience, aiming at drawing lessons and recommendations. This is basically done through one or several group meetings, looking for a joint reflection and for the opinions of all participants.
- Writing up the systematisation report. Having agreed on the main ideas, the next step is to write a basic report. This must not exceed a total of 30 pages, and must be as clear as possible. Those in charge of it must especially consider who the readers will be.
- Definition of a communication strategy. As a last step, it is important to determine how to disseminate the results of the systematisation process, and how to promote their use. An important aspect to consider is the use of different media for different target groups.
As part of this methodology, the authors have also developed a set of 12 “field guides”. These provide specific tools and additional information for each step.