Documenting what we learn

This Key list highlights practical resources that build skills and competence in documenting experiences of development work. Effectively communicating the key elements of an event, programme or even a social movement involves gathering information, reflecting on it, analysing it carefully, and choosing appropriate mechanisms and formats for relating it to others. The challenge is to answer not only what happened and how, but to identify why it is "key" and how it can advance the work of individuals, organisations or sectors. The resources listed here include both tools to support analysis and reflection, and guides to determining appropriate ways of capturing and disseminating the valuable lessons we learn through our work.

This list of key resources was developed for the Support to International Partnerships against AIDS in Africa (SIPAA) programme at ActionAid International. Please send suggestions or additions to the list to

Selected resources

Books, reports, etc

A user's guide on documentation for south-to-south collaboration

April 2002

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This "user's guide" introduces PPD's approach to documenting project experiences in reproductive health. It discusses the importance of identifying and reaching target audiences, and tools such as face-to-face interviews, and written questionnaires as well as methods for analysing these in groups. The focus is on gathering successful case studies and communicating them to others for replication through south-to-south exchanges

Culture : hidden development

GOULD, Helen G

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This is a practical working guide to culture and development for the international development sector. Through research involving tracking and mapping, it explores the role of culture in the work of five UK-based international development agencies. This publication has been designed to tease out some of the issues and help the development sector to start thinking culturally and take practical steps towards acknowledging the cultural dimension to their work

Guide for documenting and sharing 'best practices' in health programmes


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This document provides guidance on the process for identifying, documenting and sharing knowledge on country experiences in the planning, implementation and monitoring of health programmes and services that can be considered as 'Best Practices' and that can contribute to the acceleration and expansion of health sector actions. It has been written for WHO staff, ministries of health and civil society organisations

Partners manual for documenting practices in reproductive health, population and development for south-to-south collaboration : institutions and individuals manual

May 2001

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This document describes the purpose of documenting good practices, as well as targets, formats and dissemination. The second half describes different formats in some depth, and presents approaches and tools for collecting and documenting organisational practices (including questionnaires, workshops, technical briefs and stories). It also provides examples, questions and exercises that can be adapted for use within an organisation, or across a sector to document good practices

Recording and using indigenous knowledge : a manual

International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR)

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A practical, user-friendly manual that describes how to record indigenous knowledge together with local people. It includes ten case studies and questions guides on more than 20 development issues - mainly agricultural, but including water and sanitation. Well illustrated, it emphasises working in a participatory mode and adapting techniques to suit local conditions. It is seen as useful for professionals, field staff and students in all fields of development work. The format allows easy copying for use in training

Reporting with pictures : a concept paper for researchers and health policy decision-makers

et al

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Describes a framework for developing and implementing pictoral community reporting. Draws from the authors' experience with literate and illiterate community distributors of a drug to combat onchocerciasis in Nigeria. Reports high rates of efficiency, coverage, reliability and flexibility, in addition to motivation and pride among participants. Advocates wider testing and use of this innovative reporting form

Tools for knowledge and learning : a guide for development and humanitarian organisations

July 2006

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This toolkit brings together approaches and techniques aimed at supporting the learning and knowledge management of humanitarian organisations, to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their work. It provides a comprehensive overview of 30 tools and techniques, divided into five categories: i) strategy development; ii) management techniques; iii) collaboration mechanisms; iv) knowledge sharing and learning processes; and v) knowledge capture and storage. This guide is primarily aimed at staff working in development organisations

Transforming power


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This is the report of a forum that was initially conceived as a space to share experiences around participatory methodologies, adapting them to the new strategic direction of ActionAid. However, it rapidly evolved into a space for the analysis of power relationships, with the recognition that all participatory methods, tools and techniques can easily become manipulative, extractive, distorted or impotent

Journal articles

Documentation for change [whole issue]

March 2006

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This issue of LEISA is dedicated to documentation processes: how they contribute to the generation of new knowledge, and how they help people reflect on and improve their activities. This issue highlights examples of documentation in a range of field projects, and communication media from photography and participatory video to written case studies and oral testimonies or histories. The articles show how documentation can be done by anyone involved in a project, and can be more than just descriptive. Good documentation processes form part of wider monitoring and evaluation activities, and are essential for sharing knowledge and good practice with others