Making voices count. Practitioners’ Knowledge Exchange on SenseMaker in Agricultural Value Chains.

Making voices count. Practitioners’ Knowledge Exchange on SenseMaker in Agricultural Value Chains.

in News
Kaat Van Ongeval
Kaat Van Ongeval
Program Advisor Duurzame Catering

A 2-day workshop organised by VECO

Over the last few years, VECO has been working with SenseMaker, in addition to the existing monitoring and evaluation tools available to measure the impact of our work in agricultural value chains. SenseMaker is a methodology that uses micro-narratives - stories - that help us organise systematic and real-time feedback on the inclusion of smallholders in modern markets.

Based upon this methodology, with support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, VECO has developed the Inclusive Business Scan as a tool to capture the voice of producers, producer organisations and companies. It allows us to guide future actions and interventions in our pilot chains.

From 26 to 27 October 2015, VECO organized a workshop with a dozen practitioners from development organisations, private companies and finance institutions from all over the world that have tested SenseMaker in the agricultural sector. They gathered at The Institute for Ireland in Europe in Leuven, Belgium. Every participant of the workshop has relevant, practical experience with the application of SenseMaker in development programs or business development, bringing years of experience with this methodology to the table. We welcomed Andres Montenegro (CRS Colombia), Nancy Córdoba - (Pasto University,Colombia), Marcus Jenal (Beam Exchange), Diane Picon (PRIME Mercy Corps Ethiopia), Leanne Rasmussen (Feed the Future Uganda), Franck Luabeya (IFAD Ghana) and Bert Sercu (Durabilis).

VECO colleagues Dewi Catur (Indonesia) and Annabell Guzman (Mesoamerica) participated, together with colleagues Roos Peirsegaele, Rogier Eijkens, Chris Claes, Steff Deprez, Caroline Huyghe, Kaat Van Ongeval and Tom Van den Steen from Belgium. Ben Fowler (LEO) followed the workshop online. Irene Guijt (Learning by Design) joined the group by various Skype Intermezzo’s, leaving interesting food for thought for the participants, and posing some questions to the group herself.

There are different reasons I was drawn to SenseMaker. It allows to deal with complexity; it helps people with uncertainty. When dealing with issues as sustainability and inclusivity, SenseMaker draws out the less tangible, it humanises what we’re working with.

Irene Guijt Learning by Design

The set up of this unique peer-to-peer workshop asked for an informal and self-steering format. After briefly presenting the SenseMaker initiative in which they have been involved, participants quickly expressed the key issues worth discussing. These were organised according to the three main ‘SenseMaker phases’: the design; data collection; analysis and use. Participants brought discussion material (documentation,publication, analysis results) from their own initiative and experiences to share with others.
Throughout the session, the facilitators created an open space to reflect on the SenseMaker practice: which are the aspects that have worked well (good practices), which aspects were challenging and which ones would definitely need to be developed further.

As people dived into the signficiation frameworks and analysis methods, various conceptual and practical comments were made on the use of the tool. The business case for SenseMaker was discussed, analysing its added value as part of an organisation’s planning, monitoring and evaluation toolkit. Despite a rather high start-up cost, the method inherently reconnects people with people in the M&E cycle.
A report summarising the methodological discussions will be published later here.

The exact business case of SenseMaker is to hear these voices from the field. It is monitoring your program.

Chris Claes VECO

As we wrapped up the session on Tuesday, early enough for people to get a fine Belgian beer before heading back home, participants expressed their appreciation of the workshop organised by VECO: “What I liked about the event, were the dynamics. No one held back, people really shared. I really enjoyed these two days.” Marcus Jenal, Beam Exchange

“Within our project in Ghana, we’ll try to mainstream SenseMaker in the M&E system. To make this argument, these two days have been very beneficial to learn about the different ways how it has been used. I feel like I’m in a better position now to start up a pilot project using SenseMaker in our M&E system. (Frank Luabeya, IFAD)”

All participants coincided that this was but a first engagement kicking of further sharing and mutual support in the community of SenseMaker practice. Looking forward to another fruitful exchange!