Guía metodológica de sistematización
Written in Spanish, this guide was prepared for FAO’s PESA programme in Central America. This is a food security programme currently running in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, described as one of the most important initiatives started in order to fight hunger and malnutrition in the region. This programme looks at a systematisation process as a reflection and critical analysis of field experiences, carried out by those directly involved in them.
By looking at the major successes and failures, such a process aims to discover the main elements behind them, and then aims to share the lessons which can help improve future interventions. Systematisation helps provide feedback to an organisation’s planning, monitoring and evaluation system. Building on the results of a workshop held in Managua in 2003, this guide looks first at the theoretical background, and then presents a systematisation methodology.
Before presenting a definition for systematisation, the authors mention that this is not a new concept, nor a new practice. Since the early 1980s, different organisations in Latin America have been working with different approaches, all of which shared and share a common idea: systematisation is a way of generating knowledge on the basis of a practical experience. This is a participatory process, involving all those actors and stakeholders who are part of that experience.
A more precise definition needs to consider the relevance that such a process has for a food security programme, or for rural development projects in general. It must also consider that a systematisation process implies communication between different parties, as a two-way flow, reflecting the importance of feedback and socialisation as part of the process.
A systematisation process is then presented as a learning tool, as it helps understand an experience in detail. However, in contrast to traditional learning theories, its main emphasis is not on teaching, but on learning, paying special attention to the needs and interests of those who participate in a given process. This section finishes by comparing a systematisation process to an evaluation and to research.
A systematisation methology
The process is divided into three main steps: an initial planning step; the description, analysis and interpretation; and the communication of the results. For every step, the guide describes the expected final products, as well as those aspects which need to be taken into account for a successful implementation.
- 1. Planning. This step refers to the design of the whole process, in which it is necessary to:
- identify the process’ main objective, the expected products, and the use these will have within the organisation (and outside it);
- select the systematisation object, or the experience to look at. An important point here is to try not to be too broad, as this might make the analysis more difficult. It is also important to consider aspects such as relevance or usefulness;
- identify the main axis or the specific focus for the whole process. In order to do this, it helps to look at the reasons or at the particular aspects which make a given experience interesting; and
- select the method to follow, deciding when the process will start, and who is going to participate in it.
- 2. Description, analysis and interpretation. This step results in the final systematisation document, describing the situation initially found in the field, the project’s intervention, the final situation and presenting the lessons learnt. It implies:
- collecting information, considering primary and secondary sources;
- ordering this information on the basis of pre-defined categories or according to given themes. This is better done with a small chart, considering these categories and also the sources of information;
- analysing the information found, together with farmers and beneficiaries. This means getting their opinions, identifying those points where they all agree and those where they do not, and drawing conclusions;
- drawing lessons, considering what needs to change or to be done differently. This step finishes providing a basic framework for the final document.
- 3. Communication. This last step looks at the diffusion of the results. This needs to consider:
- elaborating a communication strategy, deciding whom to work with, and with what type of publications;
- designing and writing documents and material to share; and
- organising events to share the materials. These events must also consider how to get feedback, as well as how the lessons learnt and shared will be put into practice.
The guide finishes with a description of a series of techniques for gathering and analysing information, and with a detailed bibliography.