11.2 Documentation in the WASH sector
Think carefully about the purposes of documenting the processes, policies and actions in a learning community such as a WASH project team. Good documentation is more than just record-keeping; it places as much emphasis on process as it does on facts and figures. Good documentation attempts to capture the guiding principles that govern a team’s discussions and actions, how and why they are organising their activities in certain ways, and what else they need to know or discover about the problems they are seeking to resolve. It helps them to look forward to the next steps, as well as recording the relevant background and the present position. Documentation that meets these criteria is a rich resource for learning in the wider WASH community.
To be effective as a tool for communication and therefore for learning and sharing, documentation in any field should have the following basic characteristics:
- a logical structure using headings and sub-headings to organise the material sensibly and avoid repetition
- headings that are relevant to the content beneath them and vice versa
- terms and titles used consistently throughout, with any unusual or technical terms defined and explained
- a clear and concise writing style, avoiding long and complicated sentences.
If you are writing a report or other document, another important aspect is to consider your target audience and its capabilities and characteristics. For example, documents may need to be written in more than one language as appropriate for your project in order to meet the needs of the people reading your report.
The importance of documentation is illustrated in the next section, which describes some of the main forums and events in the WASH sector where reports of discussions and activities form part of their output.