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The Time Line

The Time Line method urges people who lived through an experience to tell their story more explicitly, based on facts and events.

People tell their story based on facts (how did they get there). The Time Line method is a way for both old and new members to recall the group’s/organisation’s history together. It’s an efficient way to reconsider previous methods and strategies, and reconnect with the present.

Part 1: Setting up!

A timeline is drawn on the wall; it covers an important period in the history of the project, group or organisation. The recommended time span is 2-10 years.

Make sure the room is well laid out so that everybody can read the time line labels during information sharing.

Capitalisation Workshop at Cenca [en] in Peru (2019)

Capitalisation Workshop at UGPM [en] in Senegal (2019)

Part 2: Facts and Factors!

  • Participants are organised into groups of 4 to 6 or left in full group if few. They are then asked to identify internal and external events/facts that had a significant impact on the evolution of the training, group or organisation.

E.g: in March 2020, a group of five Rwandan farmer-trainers who had been supported by RECASE (Adenya [en]) project team for two years, met to find solutions on how to improve the training of farmers. Such meetings are important in the process of collective empowerment sought with farmer-trainers.

  • Still in groups, participants are asked to identify the root causes of each fact/event they previously identified.

E.g: Théogène and Valentine, two farmer-trainers, launched the initiative to meet with their peers. They were closely monitored by the project leader who helped them gain self-confidence and encouraged them to take collective initiatives.

  • After discussing separately, each group presents the results of their brainstorming, and place them on the time line. A group discussion is then launched to get a broad overview of all reported events/facts, and analyse them based on various arguments.

Part 3: Focusing on methods!

Each participant can be asked to choose a period in the time line which he/she deems relevant. This step can be significant because of its innovative methods, its effective results or just because it has a snowball effect elsewhere.

Each participant therefore writes a short story explaining why a particular period was important to him/her, focusing on the methods used.

Another method consists in collectively choosing a noteworthy fact or event, and capitalising on the methods used.

Recommendations for trainers !

  • Ask these 3 questions in a chronological order:
  1. What happened (facts)?
  2. Why did it happen (factors)?
  3. How was it handled (methods)?
  • You can sometimes use photographs, specific words or little stories to begin discussions, to start your narration.
  • It’s easy to lead a workshop when participants feel comfortable talking.
  • Encourage people to use the pronoun “I” instead of “We” when talking. Their story has to be specific to them.
  • Appoint a session rapporteur to help you take comprehensive notes and issue a verbatim at the end of the workshop.
  • Each group can add labels to other groups’ timeline. For example, a project team can enrich the story told by a group of farmers.


  • Trace the history of a group, an organisation or a training, etc.
  • Make a collective analysis
  • Reconsider existing guidelines to trigger social transformation

Time : Plan to dedicate half a day to the workshop

External sources : La capitalisation des expériences, un voyage au cœur de l’apprentissage (F3E, 2016)

Author(s) : Frères des Hommes