Case studies

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Case Studies

Case study 1- “Learning Alliances – comparing the effectiveness of this methodology in four different contexts” by Stef Smits from the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.

Presentation: File:Smits Learning Alliances.pdf

Case study Overview

In this first case study Stef Smits presented the goals and practical lessons of two learning platforms in Colombia, both established at a local/non-national level.

  • One situated in Valle del Cauca, which involved different organizations, only operational staff at first then also decision makers;
  • One situated in Quindio departments, which involved mainly the local government.

These platforms are to be looked at in the broader context of the WASH sector’s goals:

  • The MDGs,
  • Scaling up (taking changes forward horizontally to other communities, and vertically up to the state level),
  • Decentralized management (it implies the need to work at different levels, from community level to state level)
  • Innovation (new ways of doing water sanitation)

In this framework, in order to achieve more relevant local interventions, the platforms aimed particularly at enhancing the capacity of stakeholders. This implied breaking horizontal and vertical barriers between multiple stakeholders. As part of the process, the local stakeholders defined their own agenda, participated in research, action, and meetings. This contributed to changes among the learning alliances’ members, in general a mutual learning from working with other organizations.

Some of the important lessons deduced from these experiences where:

  • The existence of various processes of establishing learning alliances, building up existing networks and platforms.
  • Scaling up requires involving local government even if it can be frustrating in some cases.

Some of the main questions/points that came out of the discussions where:

  • What make organizations actually implement change instead of sticking to their plans?

Influential stakeholders might play a determinant role in some cases: it can be a particular individual or group of stakeholders (ex: for example engineers or even one particular engineer in the case of AQUACOL). Depends on what’s available on the field/context: ex organizations who are well enrooted locally (ex:CINARA in Bolivia).

  • The issue of power: who can tell stories? Learning platforms must take in account problems such as the access to meetings (right to attend).
  • Means. Are not given per se: means must be present for platforms to be established in the first place.
  • At what scale is it necessary to work in order to produce social change? In some cases establishing a national platform might produce change more efficiently.

Case study 2 – “Making Explicit Practicioners’ Theories about How Change Happens” – Boru Douthwaite (CIAT – Internaional Center for Tropical Agriculture).

Presentation: File:Douthwaite Theories of Change.pdf

Case study overview In this case study, Boru Douthwaite based on a personal learning experience to stress the importance of change models and of modelling social change. According to this approach, people must plan change, because ‘if you can improve the theory, you can improve the practice’. He presented a particular practical framework to guide change, called the ‘Impact Pathways’ evaluation (IP). Contrary to the top-down conception referred to by Douthwaite in his introduction, where the lack of feedback from the bottom refrained change, this model consists in using participatory methods in order to make explicit the way change is thought by an organization and, ultimately, to improve one’s model of change. The IP evaluation is a combination of the traditional logic model (outcome orientated) and the network model (integrates the actors the logic model used to leave aside). The evaluation is concretely realized in workshops where organizations are asked to draw a problem tree, showing how they intend to go from their vision to their output. They are then assisted to produce ‘network maps’, i.e charts representing the existing relationships/ties of the organization and the types of relationship it has (for example funding). Finally, people are asked to present a future map of relationships in order to work on them and plan change.

Outcomes of the discussion on the case study

  • Participants recalled for the need to consider power as core issue in social change: Relationships are not to be approached exclusively though functionalist lenses, the quality of relationship is important and is not sufficiently accounted for in the IP evaluation model. Power relationships may indeed be working even within the mapping processes: the maps produced depends on who draws them. The outcome of the workshop may depend on who sits in the workshop. Furthermore, do people feel confident that they can implement change?
  • Participants underlined the need to pay more attention to structures and to how they exist in a network.

Case study 3 - “KT4Dev - Knowledge Transfer for Development”, Reza Salim (Amandar Gram – Our Village Project/BFES).

Presentation: File:Salim KM Brighton 2006.ppt

Case study overview In this last case study Reza Salim deduced some general lessons for knowledge transfer from a particular project based on the whole community of a Bangladeshi village (farmers, students, youth, experts/teachers, whole village society). One of the central goals of this project is to provide access to information and to transfer knowledge from the ‘have’ to the ‘have nots’ in order to change the condition of the people. Knowledge Transfer was conceived here as an interactive process involving, successively: creativity; sharing; evaluation; dissemination; and, finally, adoption.

Some important learning outcomes of this experience were:

  • The process of knowledge and technology transfer becomes easy and smooth when the need is created from the community.
  • Need to create awareness among the community so people can identify their own needs.
  • The effectiveness of knowledge transfer depends on the quality of relationships.

Outcomes of the discussion: Assuming again the importance of key actors, participants asked who was sought within the village community to start implementing the knowledge transfer process. By doing so, they invited the presenter to further detail the ‘story’ of this project, which revealed the importance of the ‘field singularities’ for successful knowledge transfer. A common agreement and important conclusion emerged from this third discussion: there seem to be a great difference between KM models, which are abstract, and the very singular practical experiences: the peculiarities of each practical context appear as key factors in social change. In other words, the success of a platform depends much on one field’s very particular conditions, so the key factor is practical management and not modeled management.

Synthesis Russel Kerhoven stressed some lessons that can be learned from this morning’s discussions:

  • Learning alliances do work but it is a hard work.
  • The importance of learning from experiences.
  • The importance of focusing on individuals and personal relationships - which are what actually exist - and not on organization relationships.
  • Small details can make the difference in KM.

Finally, there were some learning outcomes for the workshop itself:

  • The facilitator and participants expressed a preference for telling the story first, and only then move to more conceptual approaches of KM.
  • On the whole, participants where satisfied with the learning outcome of telling stories: it is possible to learn from other’s experiences. The ‘story telling’ style contributes more to community learning than the ‘model presentation’ procedure.