Process Documentation

Compiled by:
Beat Stauffer (seecon international gmbh)
Adapted from:
MORIARTY, P.; BATCHELOR, C.; ABD-ALHADI, F.; LABAN, P.; FAHMY, H.; INWRDAM (Editor) (2007)

Executive Summary

Process documentation records and supports the process itself. Process documentation is not about writing a final report for externals, but about an internal ongoing documentation of the process during the execution of the programme or project. It is a cooperation between the project team, stakeholders and outsiders which helps to reflect, analyse and improve the ongoing project or programme process. Process documentation is especially necessary in projects that have aspirations for social change, as it aims capturing the perceptions of the involved stakeholders and how the changes in these perceptions develop.

What Is Process Documentation?

Many projects, programmes and developmental processes document factual and measurable outcomes and compile the positive impacts of an intervention for an outside audience. By contrast, process documentation records and supports the process itself. In particular, it looks at the change process through the eyes of those involved in it, and reflects their diverging points of view. It is not about “selling” a success story, but about monitoring a process of change and development. Process documentation is more about the “how” of implementation processes than the “what” of process impact.

 Process documentation is particularly necessary in projects that have aspirations for social change. Furthermore, it values the perceptions of different stakeholders equally – for example farmers needing different quantities of water in different seasons; women in need of water for household chores; catchment or irrigation scheme managers balancing the needs of different water user groups; scientists studying water needs for crops, livestock and people.

Aims of Process Documentation

Process documentation is not about writing a final report, but about an ongoing documentation of the process during the execution of the programme or project.

The basic aim of process documentation is to learn from implementation experience, and, in the light of this, modify the strategy and ultimately, policy of a program, project or organisation (JAIN et al. 2006).

 In particular it aims at:

 

  • Capturing the perceptions of stakeholders (see also stakeholder analysis), and the changes in these perceptions develops.
  • 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.

 

Who Is Involved?

(Adapted from SCHOUTEN et al. 2007)

Insiders: The Project Team

Process documentation should be done both as part of the project and in parallel to it.

There are good reasons to put overall responsibility for process documentation into the hands of the project team, so that it becomes an integrated project activity, and so that reflection and learning become more systematic. However, it is still sensible to appoint someone to do the job of process documentation, someone who is not involved in daily project work. The documentation specialist must be able to concentrate on capturing the process, organising information, stimulating reflection and analysis, and disseminating information products. But be aware, if the specialist becomes too distant from project objectives, then the project team will not learn and adapt the project as needed.

Direct Stakeholders

In addition to the project team, also a large group of stakeholders is involved. Involving these stakeholders in process documentation stimulates opportunities for learning and reflection. When a district engineer goes to a community to interview people about planning water service delivery, they are bound to become more aware of community realities and perspectives and this triggers personal reflection.

Outsiders

Involving outsiders in process documentation has the big advantage that they can look at things from a distance. That helps them to observe the process of the project more clearly and more critically. Involving an independent documentary film maker, journalist or writer will give good results, as long as they can work in freedom. Such professionals want to look behind the well-phrased project objectives, to know what others think of the project and to read between the lines so that they can produce good information products.

Material and Resources

Adequate financial and human resources must be set aside for process documentation (capture, analysis, dissemination), and time must be allowed for reflection and discussion. Where possible, a skilled documenter (journalistic background) could be involved. Resource requirement vary, but depending on the desired output (report, flyer, video, etc), tools will probably include a video camera, still camera and sound recorder.

Methods

Process documentation is a broad area. A number of basic steps are identified here. The order of these steps may vary and should be carried out periodically during the whole project implementation so that the development of the process will be visible:

Step 1

Talk to the stakeholders and discover their perspectives (see also stakeholder analysis).

Step 2

Being present at events where project objectives meet traditional beliefs, relationships and attitudes in sanitation and water management and observe interactions and frictions.

Step 3

Visit stakeholders and outsiders and give them a voice and faces by interviewing them and taking photographs or using videos.

Step 4

Study and describe the context of the initiative for change. Include background information (articles, books) and interview experts.

Step 5

Organise moments, systems and ways of working in the project to step back from daily project business to reflect and analyse on trends and patterns. These sessions should take place far enough apart for change to have occurred but not so far apart that the sense of being in a process is lost – perhaps every 3-4 months.

Step 6

Disseminate and share findings, reflections, interviews, photographs and use them to stimulate debate. Unlike the pattern in conventional projects where results are disseminated at the end, process documentation requires rapid dissemination of less finalised products.

NB: Steps 5 and 6 in particular imply commitments of time and resources.


Tools

Tools for process documentation can be divided into four broad groups. These are:

 

  • Tools for capturing the process (e.g. field worker diaries, group discussions, interviews, photography and videos).
  • Tools for organising the information (and initial dissemination); It is necessary to avoid chaos. All the information needs to be sorted (information can be summarised in articles, photo books, video bites, written portraits or case studies).
  • Tools for analysing information; several tools exist, e.g. “Most Significant Change” or “Outcome Mapping” (see also Further Readings: DAVIES & DART and JONES & HEARN).
  • Tools for disseminating information include channels or media for dissemination; where will the concluded information be published? Channels managed by the project staff such as internet and email or channels which could be mobilised by the project (local TV, radio, newspapers).

 What Information should be documented? Source: DAVIES & DART (2005)

What Information should be documented? Source: DAVIES & DART (2005)

 

Applicability

Documentation sets a project in its local context, helping those delivering a project to see the bigger picture, rather than having their horizons limited to their own interventions. It gives people a voice and shows their lives holistically, capturing significant and unique local background, including environmental and political factors. The project is therefore more likely to interact with the broader reality of people’s lives rather than simply seeing them as functional project beneficiaries. Furthermore process documentation also adds to the internal life of the work of a project team. It leads to more intimate relationships with stakeholders for interviews, case studies etc., which in itself is rewarding and inspiring (SCHOUTEN et al. 2007).

Advantages

  • Project staff, all stakeholders and the local population are involved and can all state their views and opinions
  • Process documentation helps to reflect and learn
  • It gives people a voice and sets a project in its local context (SCHOUTEN et al. 2007)
  • Process documentation helps to share, disseminate and encourage debate about important development processes (SCHOUTEN et al. 2007)

Disadvantages

  • 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 slows the project or reduces its economic viability
  • Special interest groups use process documentation to stir up conflict and, in the extreme, to bring work to a halt

References Library

MORIARTY, P.; BATCHELOR, C.; ABD-ALHADI, F.; LABAN, P.; FAHMY, H.; INWRDAM (Editor) (2007): The EMPOWERS Approach to Water Governance: Guidelines, Methods and Tools. pdf presentation. Amman, Jordan: Inter-Islamic Network on Water Resources Development and Management (INWRDAM). URL [Accessed: 18.03.2010]. PDF

SCHOUTEN, T.; MIZYED, B.; AL-ZOUBI, R.; ABU-ELSEOUD, M.; ABD-ALHADI, F.T. (2007): The Inside Story – Process Documentation, Experiences from EMPOWERS. Amman: Inter-Islamic Network on Water Resources Development and Management (INWRDAM). URL [Accessed: 10.11.2010]. PDF

JAIN, S.; MISHRA, M.; DIGHE, A.; GOSWAMI, P.R. (2006): Participatory Adult Learning, Documentation and Information Networking (PALDIN), Course 2. In: JOSEPH, J.A. (2006): Unit 2. Documentation Process. New Delhi, 13-26. URL [Accessed: 10.11.2010]. PDF

DAVIES, R.; DART, R. (2005): The “Most Significant Change” (MSC) Technique – A Guide to its Use. Cambridge, Hastings: URL [Accessed: 10.11.2010]. PDF

Further Readings Library

Reference icon

MORIARTY, P.; BATCHELOR, C.; ABD-ALHADI, F.; LABAN, P.; FAHMY, H.; INWRDAM (Editor) (2007): The EMPOWERS Approach to Water Governance: Guidelines, Methods and Tools. pdf presentation. Amman, Jordan: Inter-Islamic Network on Water Resources Development and Management (INWRDAM). URL [Accessed: 18.03.2010]. PDF

The guideline provides information necessary to understand the EMPOWERS approach of water governance and explains in details how to use the approach for planning and implementation of water management and related issues.


Reference icon

DAVIES, R.; DART, R. (2005): The “Most Significant Change” (MSC) Technique – A Guide to its Use. Cambridge, Hastings: URL [Accessed: 10.11.2010]. PDF

“Most Significant Change” is a tool that is used during a process documentation for analysing Information. This publication is aimed at organisations, community groups, students and academics who wish to use Most Significant Change to help monitor and evaluate their social change programs and projects, or to learn more about how it can be used. The technique is applicable in many different sectors, including agriculture, education and health, and especially in development programs.


Reference icon

JAIN, S.; MISHRA, M.; DIGHE, A.; GOSWAMI, P.R. (2006): Participatory Adult Learning, Documentation and Information Networking (PALDIN), Course 2. In: JOSEPH, J.A. (2006): Unit 2. Documentation Process. New Delhi, 13-26. URL [Accessed: 10.11.2010]. PDF

PALDIN is an innovative, open, learning program with the aim of capacity building of adult educators. Unit 2 (process documentation) discusses the aims and objectives of the activity of documenting all processes of developing an adult learning setup, methods and tools used in it; such as process narration and flow charts. It also tells us how to conduct process documentation.


Reference icon

JONES, H.; HEARN, S. (2009): Outcome Mapping: a realistic alternative for planning, monitoring and evaluation. London: Overseas Development Institute. URL [Accessed: 10.11.2010]. PDF

“Outcome Mapping” is a tool that is used during a process documentation for analysing information. This paper reviews Outcome Mapping principles to guide donors considering support for projects using this tool, and other decision-makers seeking methods to improve the effectiveness of aid policies and practice.


Reference icon

Da Silva Wells, C.; Le Borgne, E.; Dickinson, N.; Jong, D. de; IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre (Editor) (2011): Documenting change : an introduction to process documentation. (= Occasional paper series / IRC, 47). The Hague: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. URL [Accessed: 24.04.2013]. PDF

An introduction to process documentation presents lessons learned from a range of projects over the past ten years and describes IRC's emerging understanding of how process documentation can promote learning and action through joint reflection and analysis. It also offers tools for collecting and presenting observations that stimulate reflection, learning and sharing.


Case Studies Library

Reference icon

SCHOUTEN, T.; MIZYED, B.; AL-ZOUBI, R.; ABU-ELSEOUD, M.; ABD-ALHADI, F.T. (2007): The Inside Story – Process Documentation, Experiences from EMPOWERS. Amman: Inter-Islamic Network on Water Resources Development and Management (INWRDAM). URL [Accessed: 10.11.2010]. PDF

EMPOWERS was a four-year regional project at governorate, district and village level in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine. This publication is not a manual but it does provide guidance for those who think that tracking the obstacles and opportunities for change is important.


Reference icon

KOPPEN, B. von; MIRIRA, R. (2009): Improved Livelihoods in Lower Limpopo, Process Documentation. Pelawatte: International Water Management Institute (IWMI). URL [Accessed: 10.11.2010]. PDF

This document describes a process documentation of a local-level integrated water resource management in Mozambique.


Important Weblinks

http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/ [Accessed: 11.11.2010]

IWMI is an international research centre. It is a non-profit organization, working in various countries in Asia and Africa. IWMI's Mission is to improve the management of land and water resources for food, livelihoods and the environment. The site contains countless documents on water management and agriculture, reflects past and present projects and contains a large database for further download.

http://www.sdc-learningandnetworking.ch [Accessed: 29.01.2013]

The aim of this page is to help people in getting familiar with a variety of methods and tools for planning and reflection of their own activities, for drawing lessons and for sharing insights and applying them. It features a selection of more than 20 methods and tools for knowledge sharing and learning, from basic to more advanced tools, applicable at personal, team and organisational level.

https://improveinternational.wordpress.com [Accessed: 06.06.2013]

This is an ongoing compilation of statistics to show that failure rates for water systems, latrines, and hygiene promotion campaigns are still high after decades of intervention.