Documentation is often seen as a difficult task by most development organisations. The documentation challenge generally links back to lack of knowledge on and usage of ideal tools and techniques for documentation. Another critical challenge is from the point of view of motivation for and realisation of the need for documentation.
Photo source: Process Documentation-A Practical Manual for Development Workers, Action for Food Production (AFPRO)
This article explores the necessity and importance of documentation – not only at the end of a program to highlight results, but also regular documentation of processes followed and experiences in achieving results.
Process documentation: overview of concept
Process documentation is not about selling a success story, but about monitoring a process of change and development. To put it in the simplest way possible, it is more about the ‘how’ of the implementation process than about the ‘what’ of process impact.
The primary aim of a process documentation is to LEARN and IMPROVISE. It specifically aims at –
-Capturing the perceptions of stakeholders and changes in these perceptions
-Using this information to support reflection and learning so as to improve the process
-Helping those looking at the process from outside to understand the changes in knowledge, attitudes and behaviours that were necessary to achieve results
|Keep in mind…
A process documentation has to reflect the change process through the eyes of all stakeholders involved – programme funders, programme leads and managers, on-field implementation team, programme beneficiaries and their families, relevant community institutions and leaders etc.
Why is it important
Process documentation can facilitate self-reflection and learning. This is how…
It throws light on a programme’s path of development
While result-oriented reports do show the performance of a programme, they do not accommodate for how activities were successfully undertaken, the processes of how and why certain activities were not so successful or simply not possible. Process documentation records and supports the process of change, thus making programme learning, improvisation and replication easier.
It indicates the extent of empowerment and participation of ‘people’ (local communities)
Development projects are about people and people cannot be reduced merely to results. Process documentation ensures that the extent to which local communities were involved in and contribute to the change process is reflected and documented.
It gives importance to and documents experiential learning
Every project is a life process. Process documentation takes into account detours, unforeseen twists and turns, and learning loops that serve as critical learning points for programme stakeholders as well as external stakeholders implementing or planning to implement programmes in similar domains or geographies.
|Keep in mind…
-Process documentation should focus on both programme success and gaps. An integration of both are key for programme learning and improvisation
-Result orientation and process orientation are mutually interdependent for effective documentation of change
The benefits and challenges in applicability
Benefits internal to the organisation…
-Gaining in systematic knowledge about their own project
-Bringing forth the hidden and sometimes unconscious knowledge about the processes in the project to help in further strategising and planning
-Publicity for the NGO as a learning organization
Benefits external to the organisation…
-Best in practice examples for other organisations and stakeholders in conceptulising, planning and strategising programmes in similar domains/geographies
-Available resource for understanding local contexts and resources
-Platform for knowledge sharing and exchange
-Stakeholders behave significantly differently when they know what they say is being used for process documentation, thus the outcomes may be biased
-Those responsible for process documentation may not understand the process they are documenting and analysing
-Effort and resources put into process documentation might slow the programme or reduces its economic viability