Field staff and programme documentation

Documentation in organisations generally happens due to its mandatory requirements to the donors. Most of the time, it is the external persons who come and document the programme, mostly at the end of the programme. This way of documentation is not helpful for organsiation to reflect and learn from their own experiences.

BAIF, an NGO in Karnataka believes that documentation should happen in the field and done by the implementing staff only.  The documentation needs of the organization and project sponsoring agency are likely to be different. Therefore it is necessary that every aspect related to the project needs to be recorded, be it for reporting or for organisational learning. In documenting the experiences, the primary focus should be on the processes apart from impacts or results.  It is here that the field staff, play an important role in capturing the essence of the processes that lead to positive results and impacts.  However, field staff bound by the pressures of programme implementation, hardly be able to carryout documentation. Further, many of the field staff need support and orientation on the way documentation has to be done.  Tools to support documentation are to be provided to them.

 Tools for documentation in BAIF

In BAIF, documentation is carried out systematically, both for reporting as well as for programme monitoring purposes. BAIF follows certain methods and tools to capture the field realities, which are explained in the following text.

  Process documentation dairy

Process documentation is a methodology to provide the processes and contextual data required for agency capacity building towards effective programme implementation.  It is a tool for social learning as it highlights the dynamics and levels of agency and community decision making.

Process documentation diary consists of a 100 page book to document the places visited, activities carried out, meetings attended, photos taken, problems faced etc.  It also consists of a monthly planner, a format to compile reports at the end of the month.  Extra sheets are also provided to document events which can be further developed into case studies/ process reports/impact reports. This dairy is maintained by all the field staff and supervisory staff. 

Documentation pad- documentation pad is yet another effort to make documentation at field level easy.  This handy pad helps the field staff to scribble their observations and draw inferences at that moment.  The sheet can be removed from the pad and filed.  Later, the information documented in the sheets can be used to compile case studies, process reports etc.    

 Audio visual documentation– different development concepts, success stories, farmers interviews etc are recorded in audio cassettes for dissemination with the wider audience.  Important project events are video documented and used for training purpose. Photography of important events/activity/case study is taken at regular intervals.

Thus, information generated from the process documentation diary, documentation pad and audio/visual means form an important source for developing reports and case studies.

Event register– Event registers are being maintained in all the projects by the Project Coordinators and Project Leaders, basically for programme monitoring purposes.  Maintenance of this register starts right from the initiation of the project. Every major event with brief description gets documented in this register immediately after the event gets completed.   This also gives a clue whether the activities were carried out as per the schedule or not, any changes needed in the work plan etc.  A simple format is developed to record the events.

Documentation is a continuous process, to be carried out by everybody involved in the programme, particularly the field staff. Along with training and relevant tools, personal qualities like patience, scribbling habit, learning attitude and an internal urge to document and share are most essential to improve field level documentation.

M.N.Kulkarni, BAIF, Hemanth, 5th cross, Vijayanagara, Devanur road, Tumkur-572102. Phone. 0816-2292191, e-mail:




  1. Rangnekar, Dr.D.V and Dr. John Farrington- Process documentation and monitoring in action- workshop proceedings, BAIF, Pune.
  2. Dr.GNS.Reddy- Human and social capital aspects of soil nutrient management, India- Karnataka field work report, R7974.
  3. SRIJAN/PD/18.10.2002.



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