02 / 2003
The GRAD (Group for Aids to Development) is an association created in 1978. In France, its objective is to inform and to offer tools to help thinking about development, and the important questions associated with it: the environment, human rights, the countries in development, intercultural issues, etc. It has put together various teaching aids: story books, books on cassette, slide shows, information packs, videos, etc.
In the countries of the South, the GRAD cooperates with local farmers’ organizations in Sahel and the local NGOs to produce and distribute teaching material for local farmers and local people involved in development work. Its purpose is to give priority to the exchange of experiences between local farmers and to develop information and communication between farmers’ organizations, to make this knowledge "usable" by fund-holders and others involved in international cooperation, and to ensure that the words of those who cannot write can become a working tool to enrich the experiences of others involved.
After a good deal of work in rural West Africa, the GRAD came to a number of different conclusions. On one hand, the bodies and people involved consult the RITIMO (Network of Documentation Centres for Sustainable Development and International Solidarity), Dph or GRAD databases only very infrequently. On the other hand, potential users only rarely seek access to "gross capital". They are more concerned to resolve particular problems, or to understand a particular phenomenon better.
In the light of these conclusions, the GRAD is experimenting with a new method, which works in the following way:
- a data set for a particular period or topic using recorded interviews. Each interview provides a spoken account of the central topic, but is conducted in such a way that the interviewee can say what he or she wants beyond the topic;
- changing this data into capital (Dph forms). To make them usable by others, the interviews are reworked one sub-topic at a time into "pre-Dph" forms. The content of each of them must correspond to the wording in the title and sub-title. Between one and ten forms result from each interview. Each pre-Dph form is reread and, if necessary, refocused, but without changing the words heard, and then becomes a Dph form, to which are added comments, notes and key words. Next, the form is checked twice, by the person interviewed and by an independent person chosen by RITIMO, before it is entered in the database;
- putting the capital into production. Forms belonging to the same theme are grouped together, compared and published (paper, cassette or on the web site);
- distributing the information: selling products or issuing them for consultation, so those involved and the users can make changes.
To improve and adapt its working methods, the GRAD has listed its different conclusions on capitalization by local farmers’ organizations and support organizations.
-an organization of local farmers can get a support organization to take on the task of tracking one or more of its activities. The support organisation has accounts to give to a fund-holder;
- many local farmers’ organizations are aware that it is possible to learn by studying successful experiences. However, they tend to imitate the experiences, rather than to adapt them to their own situation;
- it is unusual for local farmers’ organizations to analyse their failures;
- local farmers’ organizations only rarely keep written records of the results and of the analysis that are, with study trips and visits to other farmers, the main potential sources of capitalization documents;
- local farmers’ organizations are generally disinclined to make their documents into information tools, and if they do so, the tools tend to be rather rigidly didactic in style.
In view of these different issues, the GRAD recommends:
-"comparing experiences of the same type coming from a number of institutions, rather than trying to capitalize the experiences of several members of one institution."
- expanding the contexts and the histories, so the key points of each process can be identified more easily. Preserving the anonymity of people or institutions that make mistakes, so that criticisms can be made.
- collecting information by interview rather than trying to get written accounts.
- "putting the words into the Dph form just as they are, rather than using them to illustrate an article."
For the GRAD, an extract from an interview brings to the village reader or hearer, not the content alone, but also a feeling: "The person who said that is like me". "The experience expressed can thus be analysed directly by the person who reads or hears it, without being put into the words of the person who conveys (and transforms) it".
In conclusion, following the GRAD’s evaluation, "there is no point in accumulating Dph forms about local farmers’ experiences if they are not used to produce information tools adapted to each intended audience. In addition, "there is no point in producing these information tools if there is no way to ensure their targeted, efficient and lasting distribution to the intended audience."
Contact : Bernard Lecomte - GRAD, 228 Rue du Manet, 74130 Bonneville, France - Tel. +(33) (0)4 50 97 08 85 - Fax. +(33) (0)450 25 69 81 - email@example.com
Interview with <WORKING NOTES>