Hello, I am Barbara Klugman, South African providing freelance strategy and evaluation support to funders, networks and organisations internationally. Story-telling was the core methodology used by the global network WIEGO with four global networks of informal economy workers’ organisations – International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF), HomeNet International, StreetNet International and the International Alliance of Waste Pickers – to collectively work out how to build a workable monitoring and evaluation system that would support their collective learning and understanding of their work, and their ability to engage and report to their affiliates and funders. With Carmen Wilson-Grau and Rhonda Douglas, both of WIEGO, I co-facilitated a process where Networks each focused on one area of work – two on organisation building, as they are currently formalising themselves as international networks; two on campaigns – in the case of IDWF, for the domestication of ILO Convention on Domestic Work 189; in the case of StreetNet on efforts to win social protection for street vendors.
We used two steps. The first was Outcome Harvesting, where each person identified key moments of influence and their contribution towards these, told the story of how they had come about, with each of them adding in until they had woven their complex story of change. They put them on the wall chronologically, and the wall provided a visual to prompt sense-making of the story – What had we hoped would happen? What actually happened? Why? What was surprising, What was worrying? What does it mean in relation to what they’re trying to achieve and where should their emphasis be going forward? The process was experienced as very useful by participants for the insights it generated. Because they work globally and virtually, it brought together threads and details only some knew. That then reinforced the value of routinely capturing this kind of information so that it resides in the organisation and not only in the minds of individual staff or elected office bearers.
They then shared the full story with the other networks to build collective understanding of strategic routes taken, and deepen their solidarity.
For how to articulate outcomes, and ideas on how to run a participatory outcome harvest workshop see WIEGO Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation Toolkit.
For the second step, they interrogated what values and processes these experiences exemplified in relation to how they worked and learnt together, somewhat in the spirit of appreciative inquiry. This itself elicited stories of when and how they’d worked well, and when pressures on the ground had undercut their ability to take time for learning. They used this to imagine and create a story of themselves as “organisations whose staff and members are conscious of our thinking, notice our results, reflect on those results, and through this process, change our thinking and take action.”
This characterisation of a learning organisation is from Darling et al Emergent Learning.
Having drawn or created a sculpture to capture this vision, they shared back with the other networks what being this organisation would mean, storytelling to generate a new sense of possibility.
In these ways, storytelling provided a vehicle to both understand how each network was achieving its objectives (and challenges on the way), and how they could use this accessible approach to build monitoring, evaluation and learning systems appropriate to their needs and their affiliates of informal economy workers’ organisations. The possibility of investing in organisational development, including MEL, was enabled by a joint grant, hosted by WIEGO, from the Ford Foundation, which did the unusual thing of giving them funds for this purpose rather than for external influence.
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