Documenting the process: The long road to a good story

December 23, 2015 | Blog-Admin1 | Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences, SDC Networks |


Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Hynek X-masThis post tells the story of documenting a learning process. The initiative to systematize experiences in the area of pastoralism was launched in collaboration with the Agriculture and Food Security network. The Learning & Networking team decided to document exactly this process. Two ‘reporters’, Charlotte Nager and Hynek Bures, joined the workshop in Kenia, where around 20 people gathered to learn from each others’ experiences in the field of pastoralism. While the participants were involved in thematic thinking the two ‘reporters’ added an additional layer of reflection. This challenging endeavor will hopefully inspire future stories about learning.

By Hynek Bures, dubbed perceptions


How would you document the capitalization process that addresses vulnerabilities of pastoralist societies in Sub-Saharan Africa? Charlotte Nager from the division L&N set out to do just that. Her aim is to create a web-based documentary bringing together text and audiovisuals that create a compelling story inspiring future capitalization endeavors.

Charlotte asked me to help her with the audiovisuals, and that is how I came along. And that is why you read my blog post documenting the documentation about the capitalization of experiences process.

During transit at the Dubai Airport, I asked Charlotte about the reasons to document this process of capitalization of experiences:

Charlotte’s focus is on highlighting and sharing SDC learning-processes in order to inspire others to exchange and learn from each other. The capitalization workshop in Isiolo, Kenya, started off well. All workshops participants engaged in a passionate exchange of experiences. As for Charlotte and me, we were dealing with two challenges:

How to integrate our agenda into the agenda of the capitalization workshop? – The participants spent every minute of the day sharing and discussing their experiences on the subject of pastoralism. Charlotte and I felt like intruders asking participants to take time off to talk to us about the process, rather than the subject.

How to bring participants to reflect on the process, rather than on the subject of pastoralism? – Charlotte had to find the fine line between the participants telling us about their country’s challenges in pastoralism and the process of collecting and reflecting on these challenges.

It took one day for both sides, the participants and us, to get used to each other. On the second day we recorded our first interviews. By the end of this day Charlotte was starting to doubt her initial storyline. In this video, an obviously tired Charlotte talks about her moment of doubt:

I can very well understand Charlotte. This moment is very common in making documentaries: your initial idea about the story you want to write and the material you aim at collecting don’t match the reality you encounter. Charlotte took the right approach: opening up our enquiry, rather than looking desperately for the interviews that would fit her initial storyline. After all, the workshop participants were in a thematic thinking process, rather than on our Meta level reflection.

The rest of the week flew by quickly. Our feeling of intruding this workshop with our agenda dissipated on Wednesday, when the first participants walked up to us, asking for their turn to talk in front of the camera. To meet these expectations, we interviewed far more people than planned. This is a nice example of how this capitalization process has empowered the participants: They are the keepers and actors of the newly acquired knowledge on pastoralism, and they want the world to know. Come together, get inspirited and inspire others…

Charlotte and I flew back from Kenya with three times as much video material. The many more voices challenge the initial story line prepared by Charlotte. They also add diversity to the story Charlotte will tell in her online documentation. – But I would like to give the final word to Charlotte:

The documentary will be online in the second week of February 2016. Mark it in your calendar!



Further links

Agriculture & Food Security Network

Experience Capitalization

Experience Documentation




Comments to“Documenting the process: The long road to a good story”

  1. How intriguing your Story! I am wondering if your way of documenting a learning process could be transferred from a workshop to a whole project cycle. I am thinking of my project on social welfare in Switzerland that starts next year and has a duration of 2 years. Do you have any recommendations?

  2. Dear Claudia

    There exampels of documenting projects throughout their cycle with photography and video.

    Lets talk about it in the new year.
    Right now I am packing the car for family vaccations 😉

    Merry Xmas,

  3. Riff Fullan says:

    Dear Charlotte and Hynek,

    It does indeed sounds like a fascinating process! In fact, at least two processes: the capitalisation of experience itself as well as the meta-process of documenting the learning that occurs.

    I fully agree that this kind of mixed set of outputs offers great potential not only for reaching wider audiences but also forsharing knowledge more effectively. I think and I hope that it will become more common in future to take this kind of approach.

    This can also stimulate our thinking about the ‘life’ of the outputs we produce. Far too often our goal is to produce a document, a report or other output when we should in fact be thinking from the beginning who the audiences are and how we expect they will use the outputs. In some cases this means integrating the output into a follow-up process where the learning can be deepened and further developed.

    Looking forward to seeing the documentary!


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