In January 2015, I spent 10 days in Rwanda working with the Gacaca Archive Project (GAP) Team on developing an Impact Assessment plan. While it may seem obvious that the GAP is likely to have significant impact, it is vital for the development of the project and its long-term sustainability that we investigate in detail in what areas it is likely to have impact and for which stakeholders, now and into the future.
During my visit, we held an internal Impact Assessment workshop for the team, and followed this with a stakeholder workshop (http://gacaca.rw/gacaca-archive-stakeholders-meet-to-define-project-impact-goals/) attended by participants across all our projected user groups. These workshops were just the start of a process that will last throughout the life of the project and beyond, but we made excellent progress. Our process was to apply the Balanced Value Impact Model (BVIM) developed by Simon Tanner of King’s College London. The BVIM offers guidelines for planning and carrying out an Impact Assessment in such a way as to enable the core values most appropriate to the assessment to be brought to the fore and given a balanced consideration when evaluating outcomes. It is most suited to organisations in the cultural, heritage, academic or creative industries. It further presumes that the assessment will be measuring change within an ecosystem for a digital resource, and that that ecosystem can be described in detail at the start of the Assessment.
The BVIM is a structured approach to Impact Assessment which allows formal methods such as the Balanced Scorecard model to be set within a context of the value of cultural resources. Besides taking account of the ecosystem that a digital resource operates within this model also looks at impact through a number of perspectives, which may be different according to the goals, outputs and outcomes of a digitisation project.
For the GAP, and more broadly for the Genocide Archive, we agreed that the key perspectives are:
- Educating and learning – Capacity building and training
- Peace, reconciliation, social and community cohesion
- Environmental and sustaining
- Political and democratising
- Technological and innovating
- Legal and national security
- Equality and equity
We were clear in our discussion that not all impact could be regarded as positive. For example, social and community cohesion might be a negative impact. Though archives are very important for dealing with the past, and ‘the right to truth’ is a key principle, more knowledge of perpetrators and crimes could, for example, prove to be divisive. The political and democratising impacts were felt to contribute to accountability, which might give the population increased trust in the government. It was also felt that use of the Gacaca Archive might help to solve certain problems: for example, it could be used by other countries to show how a home-grown solution might lead to peace and reconciliation. Education was felt to be extremely important: the Archive is a learning tool as well as all the other things it is.
The Gacaca Archive is a value within and outside Rwanda, even for those who may never use it. Currently, it is a legal instrument that is in daily use for judicial processes, and digitisation will greatly enhance the utility of the Archive for those carrying out those processes. However, digitisation and the potential for wider access also gives the opportunity for greater impact across new stakeholder groups. The Impact Assessment planning will continue in order to ensure that, while protecting the security of the records, use and impact can be maximised and can be measured to prove the value of the digitisation project.