N Recommendations for the Writing of Reports
Is It Worth Collecting Important Experience?
Every development worker sometimes has to face the question, "Shall I write up this experience so it could benefit others?" Unfortunately we have to admit that many of our colleagues usually decide against this because they feel:
- I have not got enough time - No-one is going to read it anyway - My experience is not that important.
When it is time for them to leave an assignment there really is no time left for writing up any experience. In this way, a vast amount of valuable experience is lost every year just because the opportunity of writing it all down has been missed.
On the other hand, we are all often in situations where we would be only too glad to hear from someone else who had tackled a certain task (e.g. developing of good educational material, the conducting of an investigation, laying out a rural newspaper, implementing on-farm trials etc.) and how much success and difficulty he encountered. Many people do no more bother looking for experience of this kind,
- because they do not know where to look
In other words, a great deal of experience has been and still is being made. The only thing is that those offering experience have no idea where and by whom their experience is needed and those looking for experience have no idea where and by whom it is being offered.
At the LBL we are committed to breaking this vicious circle trying with the "Berater-News", these Guidelines and the exchange of information to make the supply and demand of extension experience more transparent so that people will readily think that
"It is worthwhile developing and documenting important experience and seeking help from the experience of others."
The following is intended as a step in this direction.
Two Important Questions
In the above paragraph it has already been made clear that the demand plays an important role in the development and documentation of experience. Thus the most important questions must be
- What experience of mine (ours) could be important for others? - How must my (our) experience be documented if it is to become accessible to others?
A Few Points to Remember:
There are many answers to these questions. A few which we think are important are provided below, as points to remember:
- Describe your own positive and negative practical experience rather than putting forward ideas and theories.
Others benefit most from concrete experience that we have obtained over some time; experience from which we have learned something, where we have observed the success and the difficulty of the task, recognized our own prejudices and been able to overcome them.
- Refer to practical facts.
The superficial description of 3 or 4 years of our entire activity is of no interest to anyone else, but practical experience such as "How I prepared my group- counselling events" or "How we drafted our extension programme" or "How I helped my successor" etc. is valuable.
- Not only the WHAT and the HOW MUCH, but above all the HOW, the WHY and the CONDITIONS need describing.
This makes the difference between a report of activities, which gives the result of a campaign (e.g. in 1986 two million saplings were produced in the Project XY nursery), and one documenting experience which describes the process (e.g. how the two million saplings were produced, who participated, how and why the work was organized as it was, what went well, what didn't work, and why etc....)
- As short as possible - just what is necessary.
Documents of over 20 pages are seldom read.
- Choose an attractive layout and a style which is suitable for the reader.
Clear graphic layout, understandable language, visual aids such as photos or drawings are important elements that often decide whether a report is read or not.
A report of a practical experience cannot tell the reader everything. However, having read it, the reader should be able to decide whether the experience presented is relevant. He must also know how and where to ask for more information.
The Practical Application: A 4-Stage Concept
To help achieve these aims, we outline here a 4-step model which will allow the reader to move from step to step and decide after each one whether he will stop right there or go on to the next step.
Now, who feels like sitting down and trying to write a colorful, true-to-life report of extension experience instead of a dull account of activities?
We, at the Department for Agricultural Extension in Development Cooperation at the LBL are interested in reports such as these. They are used:
· in our seminars, when editing the "Berater-News",
· for direct distribution to interested people and institutions.
The LBL's special department is easy to contact:
Suggestion for the Layout and Content of a Report of Experience
1st Part: Description and Analysis of the Experience
- What does my experience consist of?
2nd Part: Institutional Aspects
- What was the institutional setting?
3rd Part: Comparisons with Similar Experiences
- What knowledge did we have of similar locaVregional/ foreign experiences?
And here our last Invitation
In case you have doubts about putting your experience on paper, or feel confused about the procedures or do not know English well enough - please do not hesitate to write to us. We shall give you all the necessary encouragement and coaching.
Heierle, U.; 1983: Dokumentierung von Felderfahrung: Was ist zu beachten? SKAT, St.Gallen.
Zielke, W.; 1974: Gute Berichte (flussig schreiben - gezielt informieren). Verlag Moderne Industrie, Munchen.
Ernst Bolliger, Peter Reinhard, Tonino Zellweger
Guidelines for extension workers in rural areas
References to periodicals, notes and abstracts 9
List of periodicals and notes
ODI Network Papers. Discussion Papers. Occasional parers and Newsletter
The Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Agricultural Administration Unit contributes with its four series of publications to the discussion of the interaction between research, extension and practice. The main focus is on extension systems, and farmer's participation in both extension and research programmes.
Contributions are both reports on experiences in the field as well as synthetical papers from the headquarters of ODI.
Network Paper no 5 (published in June 1989) presents 340 abstracts on farmer participatory research.
RRA Notes is a networking paper for all field agents working with and interested in the exchange of experiences in the application of RRA. RRA Notes are published 3 to 4 times a year.
A distribution list gives access to the addresses of people working with RRA.
RRA Notes are published by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
Community forestry notes
1 Household food security and forestry: an analysis of socio-economic issues
The lleia Newsletter is a quarterly publication of the Information Centre for Low-External-lnput and Sustainable Agriculture. It focusses in each issue on a subject out of the field of agro-ecology, sustainable agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, interaction research-extension-practice. A few books and other publications are presented in each issue.
Editor: Ileia, P.O.Box 64, 3830 AB Leusden, The Netherlands. Phone o33-943086; Fax o33-940791.
Assessment: Ileia Newsletter is an interesting reading, focussing on both agro-ecological themes as well as extension and on farm research methods.
Forest, Trees and People Newsletter
This periodical is a quarterly publication distributed to field projects, institutions, organizations or individuals interested in and/or working with community forestry activities. It forms part of the FTP Programme's networking activities. The network is designed to spread information on improved methods of planning and strengthening community forestry activities and on on-going or planned initiatives of potential interest to its members.
Journal of Extension Systems
Editor: Dr. O.S. Verma, CGS Colony, Antop Hill, Sector-2: 47/507 Koliwada, Bombay 40o o37, India
Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture
Editor: DLG-Verlag, Rusterstrasse 13, D-6000 Frankfurt/Main, Germany
Journal of Extension
Editor: Center for Indigenous Knowledge for Agriculture and Rural Development, 318B Curtiss Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, lowa 50o11, USA
Editor: Interpaks (International Programs for Agricultural Knowledge Systems), 440 Mumford Hall, 1301 W. Gregori Drive, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.
Book reviews, Abstracts
CAB Abstracts: Rural Development Abstracts
Rural Development Abstracts (RDA) is a quarterly journal comprising approximately 250o abstracts a year of documents concerned with rural development in the Third World. The scope of the journal is broad and its coverage includes agricultural and industrial production, investment, development projects, health, aid and women.
The "Rural Extension, Education and Training Abstracts", published until 1989, are integrated in RDA since 1990. Editor CAB International, Wallingford, Oxon OX10 ODE, United Kingdom.
Assessment: "The World's Leading Agricultural Database". RDA provides extensive coverage of all corejournals, books and university research publications relating to rural development including foreign language material. It also contains abstracts from a wide range of publications from developing countries which are not easily available elsewhere.
[Ukrainian] [English] [Russian]