|Action Research Report on «Reflect» - Education research paper No.17 (DFID, 1996, 96 p.)|
|3. The REFLECT method|
To give you a flavour of a REFLECT circle it is worth recounting the experience from a visit to one in July 1995 in Uganda. The circle was in a small village called Sala City in Bundibugyo and participants had just met when we arrived. They were sitting, literally in a circle, under circular shelter that they themselves had built. The facilitator outlined that today they were going to construct a calendar identifying the times of the year when there was plenty of food or income and the times when there was little or no food or income. The participants stood up and left their shelter to stand in a semi circle around a cleared area of ground that they have come to call their "mapping ground".
One participant wrote the numbers one to twelve on the ground with a stick and other participants then drew a large framework for the calendar. The facilitator asked whether there was a lot of food or income available in January and there was some discussion before one participant volunteered to indicate by lines that there was indeed a fair amount in January. The facilitator asked about February - whether there was more or less and why - and the participants started talking to each other about different crops and sources of income in February before agreeing there was less. The facilitator then asked month by month, with the discussion for each month lasting between three and five minutes and all twenty participants having something to say
The calendar, once completed, showed there was almost no food or income available between May and August. The facilitator thus asked what they did to survive in those months - and then, what they could do to be able to survive better. The ensuing discussion was remarkable for the level of detail and the range of ideas that emerged with different participants drawing on different experiences to make their contributions. Some suggested late planting of different crops like rice, cassava or beans; others emphasised storing of crops (which led to detailed exchanges on advantages and disadvantages of storing different crops and how to do so effectively); one man spoke about drought resistant crops like yam; a woman emphasised the impact of family size on food availability; an older man spoke about different planting practices he'd learnt when living in the mountains including inter-cropping; whilst a younger woman challenged the traditional practice of giving away surplus crops at harvest time to relatives. Most of the participants were talking to each other, with the facilitator simply helping to stimulate or structure the discussion with the help of the calendar.
After an hour or so of discussion the participants returned to their circular shelter and started doing reading and writing practice drawing on key words that had come up from their discussion. The facilitator left to make a copy of the calendar on a large sheet of card, whilst the participants continued practising their writing. Unfortunately we then had to leave but I imagine the participants would have proceeded to share what each had tried to write and perhaps they would then together collectively write up an action plan or set of recommendations based on their discussions. It really was a wonderful process to observe. The participants. most of whom were women, were finding a voice and exchanging experiences which were of fundamental importance to their daily lives - indeed to their very survival - and the literacy work was arising directly out of that context.