Exchange Visits seek to improve the knowledge and practices of visiting communities or organisations and to integrate the experience gained from the visit into their daily lives or work.
Exchange Visits are a practical and effective tool to foster learning between communities (and organisations). They are intended to benefit all participants (both hosts and visitors) through an open exchange of ideas, knowledge and sound practices. An exchange can be appropriate for communities or organisations of any size, geographic reach, mission, or programme. The aim is to exchange experiences and discover new viewpoints and approaches for specific themes (such as hygiene-related behaviour or community outreach techniques). For capacity strengthening, Exchange Visits offer considerable scope for all target groups. Learning experiences facilitated through Exchange Visits can take place at different levels. They can lead to an increase in knowledge due to practical demonstrations that make it easier to understand an idea or a concept and stimulate willingness to take action. Additionally, an Exchange Visit can lead to changes in attitudes and encourage open-mindedness. This is particularly relevant in relation to hygiene-related behaviour change when communities with a similar cultural and social background meet and discuss the applicability and advantages of the desired hygiene practices. Exchange Visits between organisations that do the same work can be an effective way of strengthening team spirit, networking and knowledge-sharing as well as scale up methodologies that promote good hygiene practices. Organisers should promote an atmosphere in which visitors and hosts feel comfortable to exchange, including adequate logistics such as transport, safe accommodation and translation services if required.
Exchange Visits are feasible after the acute emergency phase and when visits can be made in a sufficiently safe environment. They are appropriate for any size of community and programme type. They are most applicable for exchanges between peer groups as visiting groups can more easily relate new experiences to their own context.
Ensure the visiting group is inclusive so that a representative variety of key stakeholders are exposed to new learning that they can apply in their own community
Prepare participants in advance and encourage them to share their experiences on their return home
Define the objectives of the Exchange Visit jointly with the visitors and hosts
Do not forget to give feedback to the host group
Do not focus only on information-sharing, but also identify lessons and ideas to use and adapt after the visit
Do not select participants who are unlikely to use the experience to influence others.
In a cross-border project between India and Nepal, supported by Malteser International, Exchange Visits between communities on both sides of the border raised awareness of the application of improved WASH strategies in flood-prone areas. Nepali communities learned about using raised platforms for handpumps and the Indian visitors to Nepal picked up skills about more gender-sensitive WASH programming.
Matras F., Sidi, F. et al. (2013): Exchange Visits: Advice for Improving the Impact. Knowledge Management and Gender, FAO