Learning Routes are a kind of management tool for recognising local knowledge and capacity building, organized thematically around experiences, cases and best practices. Through workshops, interviews, discussions and field activities the Learning Route approach provides for multiple opportunities for exchange, analysis and reflection, individually and in groups, based on the testimony and knowledge accumulated by local practitioners or talents, in order to achieve a comprehensive, systemic and dynamic understanding of problems and solutions.
The Learning Routes approach is essentially a roadmap for building knowledge based on learning, by having particpants visit various experiences relevant to their own development projects. In this sense, the impact of the Learning Routes is evaluated by the contribution to positive change management practices and implementation by participants in their organizations, institutions and projects. The Learning Routes are of high value to direct users as they expand analytical capacity and knowledge management of participants leading to improved efficiency and effectiveness of public investment in development.
The impact has been measured quantitatively by keeping a comprehensive record of participants, their organizations and consolidating information on their professional profiles, gender and other socio cultural dimensions. As of June 2011 47 Routes have been carried out with 793 participants under seven subject matters including: (i) cultural assets, (ii) gender policies , (iii) development innovations, (iv) rural youth, (v) rural micro enterprises, (vi) micro finances, and (vii land and natural resources. Records indicate that 46% of all participants had a postgraduate degree, 56% were men and 48 % were between 31 and 40 years old.
Evaluations of the initiative have indicated that it has been highly successful and its impact has been greater than expected by IFAD and PROCASUR. The evaluations have concluded that from a qualitative point of view this has been: (a) an effective methodology for training and education focused on the exchange of experiences, knowledge and practice, combining theoretical training with visits to innovative case studies that can be replicated through the creation of innovation plans tailored to the needs of each participant; (b) a flexible mechanism that allows for developing new management skills among various actors involved in rural development initiatives (farmers, rural operators, technicians, professional staff working in projects) and in a wide range of thematic domains; and, (d) a relevant approach to allow local talents and development practitioners to systematically organize their knowledge, experiences and processes of innovation. Learning Routes mobilize partners and stakeholders, leveraging additional resources and furthering replication as many other international organizations have adopted the methodology in their strategies for capacity building, as well as government agencies.
A survey of participants in the initiative indicated that they were highly satisfied with the concept and the training methodology. They had acquired new skills and knowledge and had improved professionally as a result of their participation. They indicated that they had acquired better theoretical and practical knowledge to implement new projects in their organizations, becoming agents of change.