Reports serve a very useful purpose in our work. They capture and document meetings, activities, processes, projects and events. They help those involved as well as those who weren’t involved to know what was happening, discussed, shared and decided.
But how many of you have seen reports that look like those in the picture, to the left? For a start, they aren’t very enticing, and in this format they aren’t going to travel very far. However, the good news is that there are other, creative ways that we can use to capture information, present it and share it.
Innovative event design and documentation that travels
I recently helped to organize and facilitate a mini Share Fair on Agri-water projects. The objective of the event was to do something different to bring together a number of projects that are all working on agri-water issues, all in Ethiopia, and many of which share the same goals, methods, partners and donors — but which previously had not been engaged with each other much.
A Share Fair was suggested because of the innovative style of activities and methods it could bring to the task. And it delivered just that – making use of a reverse Rubik’s cube method.
So while Peter Ballantyne from ILRI did some social reporting (a topic we will soon have available as part of our How Can I… series), we still needed to capture the content, process and results of the event and make it available to the participants and others. But how can we create a report that:
- reflects an innovative event, activity or process?
- captures the information in a way that engages people?
- can be widely shared and accessible?
Well, below are three things that I did for the Agri-water Share Fair ‘report’ to make it more innovative — you might want to try them too.
Use PowerPoint instead of Word as the format for your report
For the Share Fair report I decided to use PowerPoint as the format for the report instead of Word – because I could more easily replicate the flow of the event, allowing people to move through the report as if they were moving through the day. This format also allows you to make use of a lot more images to showcase the activities that took place and the information shared – using both the photographs taken and the interesting graphics that PowerPoint allows you to create. More importantly, by using PowerPoint, I think it also makes you focus your content, rather than just writing large swathes of text.
Moreover, since there were ten presentations made by different projects during the Share Fair, it meant that I didn’t have to worry about converting these into a different format, but could just build upon what was already there.
Display information creatively, not just all text
As part of the Share Fair, the projects involved were each asked to make a brief presentation using a common template that would allow us to carry out analysis and synthesis across all the projects with regard to things like:
- People involved in the projects: lead organizations, partners, funders and stakeholders
- Budgets, time lines and geographical areas
- Goals, activities and approaches
- Unique selling points and challenges
So in order to show some of the trends coming out from across all the projects in the areas noted above, I made use of some online applications like Wordle and TagCrowd, which create tag clouds. Text is put into the application, which analyzes how often the various words appear and creates an image of those words in a tag cloud. The more often a word is repeated, the bigger its corresponding image within the tag cloud, compared to other words.
For example, instead of just listing all the approaches being used by the projects at the Share Fair, I made a tag cloud from the text in their presentations. The resulting image above, highlights some of the most common and frequent approaches: case studies, dialogue, modeling and knowledge sharing!
Put it online using SlideShare
A PowerPoint presentation filled with images makes it difficult to send via email. Plus, only those on the participant list get to see the ‘report’ and not others working on the projects, in the organizations, in the countries, or even just those who may be interested. I therefore decided to upload the ‘report’ onto SlideShare to make it widely accessible to as many people as possible.
The ‘report’ is in two parts because the ten project presentations were already enough to fill one presentation , and the report on the Share Fair activities and process was then put into another one (with a link to the project presentations on SlideShare too).
SlideShare makes it easier to share presentations, simply by distributing the links via email and other social media channels. For example, the presentations on SlideShare can be embedded into a blog post like this one for people to view instantly, as shown below:
Now wasn’t that a more exciting ‘report’ to read?
Blog post thumbnail- Uploaded by Rybson at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1088940
Tag cloud- Created by Nadia Manning-Thomas