Documentation design and preserving memories

Documentation can be utilized to the extent of easing the entire process of event preparation and further used as your organisational and community archive for community knowledge building. Not only does it serve your participants for preparation and the navigation during the event, but it can also be a great tool for your own organisation for reflection, lessons learned during the process, or as a capacity building or advocacy tool. Preparing and saving all documentation related material would be a strategic move as it could be a resource that you can further develop, build on, adjust and share in your community and wider network.

Here are some types of preparatory documentation and materials to consider during your planning and designing stage. You would probably want to have some or most of these ready at different stages, as well as to include your participants in the design of some of the documents.

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Remember to communicate with your speakers, facilitators and other relevant persons on delivering their prepared material as soon as you design your program so it can be adjusted and/or translated in advance and that it is accessible to all people. Also, don’t forget that some of the material will contain personal data and content that could put some people at risk. Make sure to anonymise any compromising data (gender, region, name), secure your channels of communication, as well as your repository system.

Documentation and participants

Some of the documents listed above will need to be designed and sent out to your participants beforehand. Think how to engage your participants in documentation design process so you can be on the same page and create a good plan. Here are some questions to have in mind when thinking about documentation and your participants:

Think if you plan to share and use the entire event or some aspects of it later on for promotion or resource development. Go back to your “Who will attend” section. Think of privacy, risks and safety of your participants when it comes to documenting the event and ask yourself some questions that can help you prepare in advance:

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All of these listed questions involve consent forms, revisions of platform policies or adjustments and announcements you might want to start making already at the planning stage. You will find practical examples that address these issues during your online event in ‘Consent, privacy and confidentiality’ section of this guide. 


How will you document your event?

As we already shared in this guide, there are dozen documents that you would want to prepare in advance. However, the documentation of the event itself is an element that is adapted, adjusted and made unique by each organisation’s framework: values, practices, approach, content and issues covered. Documentation serves the function of preserving the memories of powerful shared moments, conversations, insights and people - which can always be revisited. In this way, you can go back to the conversations, review highlights, and reflect on what worked and what can be improved. Video recordings, notes, quotes and visuals can also be incorporated in your advocacy activities, media campaigns, research, reports, etc.

To decide what to document go back to the purpose of your event as mentioned in the “What do I want to accomplish” and choose what can help you achieve that. Different forms will suit your different needs. For example, at APC we find visual documentation and graphic recording very effective to convey the content of meetings and discussions. Here is an example of APC Member Convening 2020 - Closer Than Ever graphic recording.

Documentation can take different forms: audio recordings, text notes (reports, highlights, summaries, transcriptions), video recordings, visual/graphic notes (illustrations), whiteboards (as a freeform space that could be informal but also intentionally used). However you decide to document, take into consideration consent, privacy and confidentiality protocols and forms for your participants. You can read more on these in the section “During the event”.


Types of documentation from APC’s experience during our Member Convening and Take Back the Tech! 2020 campaign


Event documentation plan

Depending on the event duration, consider having a designated person for documentation, or a team of documenters during your event. The documenters are in charge of note-taking, graphic/visual recording and transcription, with outputs such as highlights of the day, summaries, illustrations, etc. Make sure you communicate with them in advance some of the key issues as you want them to be able to navigate spaces and content with ease. Here is a suggestion for a core template of some elements in the event documentation plan that you might find useful when designing your own:

Using wikis to plan online events and publish supporting documentation

Wikis can be useful, as they allow users to easily edit and change content and engage in discussions around the content, without the need for specific software. You can think of them as something between a webpage, and an online collaborative document such as pads, onlyoffice, or Google Docs.

The advantage of using wiki for your meeting documentation is that while your preparatory team can collaborate on editing the content you can establish different levels of permissions for different participants. These can range from just reading the content and downloading linked attachments, to editing certain pages of your wiki, for example participants’ profiles, or the agenda. Different types of wikis are suitable for different purposes. For example, TikiWiki has a complex user permissions system allowing you to fine-tune access permissions of participants. At the same time it is more complex and less user friendly than MediaWiki where you can achieve a nicely organised layout without much formatting work.

Wikis are handy for meeting preparations because they give you an option to publish a page with all details about the event, and yet you have a possibility to update some documents or make last minutes changes with few clicks, if necessary. Replacing uploaded documents with updated versions is easy and you don’t even need to touch the content of the main pages itself. So excellent for publishing preparatory documents or agendas where you foresee some possible last-minute changes.

Wikis are not that good for collaborative note taking, although it is a good practice to publish the final notes (or recording) from your event there along with other documents related to your meeting. However, for real-time collaborative note-taking you need a tool that is easy to access and allows real time editing by various users without them over-writing each other’s contributions. Pads are ideal for that.