How do we do it?
I chose a topic, and I try to follow one method. What else do I have to take into account?
How to carry out a documentation process? Is it different to "systematize" than to "capitalise"? Considering that there are many different ways of going about a documentation process, the purpose of the following pages is look at the different steps which all methods and approaches share, presenting specific lessons for each step. These are complemented by the general lessons in this page, related to the different considerations that need to be taken into account. In addition, we provide a short overview of the the many methods available, and of the work of many organisations in the field.
ENRAP - IFAD training workshop
The organisation of the training workshop in Wu Zhing, Ninxia, China, taught those involve din it some important lessons. First, it is essential that all trainers exchange ideas andinformation between them before the workshop, agreeing on wehat needs to be done, and on how will the workshop run. They also need to make sure that sufficient information is provided to all participants, especially considering project documents or secondary data. This can all be very useful when participants go to the field. A third important lesson is the need to provide feedback to the trainers after each session. How this is going to be done also needs to be planed in advance.
Structure and flexibility
Pankaj Gupta, ISEC campus, Bangalore, India at the ENRAP online discussion
To me, systematization is a like a distinct research methodology, especially devised for a rapid self appraisal of a development project, where the emphasis is on uderstanding not only the final outcomes (or impacts), but rather the whole process. What I found most interesting is the attempt to achieve a balance between a structured methodology and a fair amount of flexibility, between qualitative and quantitative research tools. For example, the participants in a systematization exercise are expected to follow a set of well-defined steps, within a certain conceptual framework (as set out in the ILEIA manual, for example), however they can decide on what criteria and indicators to select, which in any case should be based on ground realities and selected in participation with the community.
Things to take into account
Vincent Darlong, NRCORMP-IFAD, Shillong, India at the ENRAP online discussion
During our documentation experience, we identified a few aspects. First, documentation must be cost-effective. It must also be time-effective, being able to produuce study documents within a short period of time. It needs to be system-effective: even if budget is not allocated to doing it, it must be possible to start and finish it. In our case, we did not require a separate budget for this activity. Documentation must also provide a facilitator-based learning opportunity. We could not have learned so much from any consultant who would have gathered information from us and then written the same information in different (and impressive) ways. Documentation must help us learn by doing. This is really an opportunity for hand-on writing, which is good if we consider that most of our team members generally lack time and the basic skills to organise, analyse, interpret and finally write. Finally, it must be a participatory process.
Be sure that the method suits you
DURAS, June 2008
In the first half of 2008, DURAS encouraged the documentation of the 12 projects they supported. DURAS recommended them all to follow the "Learning from experience" manual because of its simplicity. This was liked by most participants. One of them mentioned this simplicity as a big advantage: "it is stupidly simple", adding that "just by reading it you know what to do".
Another one said that "it is simple, and that is how it has to be". In short, most participants were satisfied with the method chosen, and they found it useful. "It was very easy to use the templates, we had no problem... our colleagues did without having been in the workshop". "At first I thought this is obvious, it is old wine in a new bottle..."
Spate Irrigation Network, March 2008
With the support of the Spate Irrigation Network, Mr K made a film of the production of sorguhm in Eritrea. Reflecting on the process he went through, he mentioned that "acquired agricultural and video knowledge alone will not take you further unless you are trusted by the community. I had the advantage of having been working with the Sheeb farming community for almost a year before I started with the video shooting... So you need visual tools, skills, budget, and also knowledge on the local culture. And good interpersonal communication skills."
Time, that limiting factor...
IADO, June 2007
One of the main problems faced has always been lack of time, especially because documentation is only one of the many activities that an organisation is busy with (in some cases with not enough resources available). These many activities generally mean that workshops have to be delayed, and the the whole process takes longer than expected. This was common during the process that started in Same, Tanzania. As an explanation, the IADO staff mentioned that, as documentation requires "new skills", all those involved in many activities at the same time prefer to start with those activities which they feel more confortable, leaving the "harder" ones for later. Developing these new skills demands special dedication...
And make sure that resources are available
ILEIA, June 2007
Lack of resources is another main difficulty in all documentation processes. All the organisations working directly with ILEIA committed sufficient resources for the organisation of workshops, ensuring that these worked well. But more resources are also necessary afterwards, and these are not always available. One way of making sure that these were available was by "incorporating" the documentation activities into the wider set of activities which organisations run, pooling resources. Their activities, therefore, seem more efficient...