Measuring the authentic impact of development interventions remains a big challenge for many development organizations and governments, mainly in developing countries. Terms like Value for Money (VfM) and Social Return on Investment (SROI) are being mentioned repeatedly as organizations try to ascertain the value of millions of dollars that continue to go towards development. While these efforts focus mostly on the monetary value, there is not much excitement towards assessing changes in knowledge and people’s capacity to make sense of their own development.
Building community confidence and culture
African agrarian communities may not attach particular names or abbreviations to most of their best practice models but such practices are worthy more than new models being dreamed up by development practitioners every day. eMKambo has realized that, besides using repetition to build community confidence and a strong culture, each farming community has sophisticated ways of evaluating its learning processes through questions like:
- What is working well in our community this season?
- Where are we solving the same problems over and over?
After every harvest, individual farming households often find time to discuss their results through questions like:
- What have we achieved that makes us proud?
- What could have been better?
Greater community efforts also go into analyzing collective decisions through answering questions like:
- What decisions did we not implement properly leading to disappointing results?
- What decisions preceded our good results?
Instead of focusing on monetary value, the impact of development interventions can be revealed through facilitating processes where communities ask and answer their questions intelligently. It may not be so much about how much money has been spent taking people through formal training programmes like farming as a business or buying ICT equipment like VSAT.
Identifying pockets of positive community energy and knowledge
While a lot of knowledge may exist in a community, there is often need for structured ways of assisting local people to explore relationships that expand or impede knowledge sharing. This can be achieved through helping them to answer questions such as:
- Where are the pockets of positive energy in our community?
- Where is the negative energy and how can we minimize it?
- What brings us satisfaction in our agricultural and socio-economic activities?
- What is frustrating us and what does that say about our community?
- What skills are we improving as a community?
- What skills would we want to acquire and improve?
- What are we learning about our individual and collective community roles?
Uncovering learning through reflection
Given an increase in the amount of information sources, many farmers now need few rules of thumb rather than a lot of information that ends up confusing them. Contrary to the widespread notion that the customer is always right, informal markets have shown the extent to which many customers learn from traders, farmers and other actors who frequent informal markets. Since not every value chain actor can possibly know everything, they thrive on trusting other people’s knowledge. In some cases, providing farmers and other value chain actors with more information or knowledge is unlikely to improve their situation due to several barriers to using that knowledge.
Many farmers need information on a just-in-time basis as opposed to just-in-case basis, on the assumption that it will become useful in the future. Unfortunately, most capacity building programmes are based on just-in-case knowledge provision approaches on the assumption that communities will use that information when the project comes to an end. Quite often, when the project phases out, which is the end of everything associated with it, including knowledge sharing practices. That is why setting up community knowledge centres becomes important so that they continue weaving various knowledge pathways into collective community action.
eMkambo Call Centre: 0771 859000-5/ 0716 331140-5 / 0739 866 343-6