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The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
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The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
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The Little Book Of Documentation
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The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
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The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
The Little Book Of Documentation
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The Little Book Of Documentation

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Base material for our documentation course... and a primer for anyone wanting to do documentation for NGOs--from letters to proposals to reports, newsletters and books

Base material for our documentation course... and a primer for anyone wanting to do documentation for NGOs--from letters to proposals to reports, newsletters and books

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  • 1. The Little Book of Documentation ~ Anita Cheria -- Edwin ~
  • 2. the little book of documentation anita cheria; edwin September 2004 [second edition] first published 1999 © authors all parts of this book may be reproduced, with acknowledgment, for non–profit use sold at print cost, provided that each subsequent reproduction is also non–profit and carries this note. copies to us would be appreciated. kindly contact us for special concessional rates for educational institutions. printed at st paul publications, nagasandra, 8th mile, tumkur road, bangalore, india—560073 p: +91–80–8395962; e: paulsind@bom4.vsnl.net.in. published by Goodbookz, 125/1, main 5, cross 15, block 2, bangalore, india—560032 p: 91(0) 94-4848-4797 e: goodbookz@yahoo.co.uk Price India:— Rupees 150.00; abroad:—US$ 15.00 PAPA 91–601302–001—003—A the little book of documentation 2
  • 3. inside information 1 What is documentation? 4 2 Before you start 7 the skills 3 The ABCs 11 4 Other related considerations 20 5 Political correctness 27 6 General conventions 30 7 Getting information 36 internal documents 8 Letter writing 40 9 Project proposals 44 10 Project report writing 53 11 Case study 55 12 Process reports 62 13 Workshop reports 76 14 Making documents attractive 79 15 Computers 83 16 Information management 90 17 The writers’ check list 93 into the public domain 18 Public domain writing 98 19 Publishing 109 20 Publicity and reviews 124 21 Unsold publications 130 22 Responsibility 132 23 End note 139
  • 4. 1 What is documentation? So you want to do documentation. This book will tell you how. We will go from the basics of reporting, to case studies, to the more comprehensive process reporting, and then to writing a book. We will have a brief look at ways of making your report attractive to the reader by using different fonts and also page layouts. Then on to publication and distribution. All from the point of you, the author. This book first deals with the basic writing skills that you will develop. Then the skills and tips for specialized tasks. First the trade and then the tricks of the trade. Let us start from the most basic principles of writing. Documentation is literally the preparation of documents, or keeping records. It combines the mundane journalistic skill of mere superficial reporting with a more keen eye for detail. Documentation can be written, or audio visual. In this book we will use ‘documentation’ to mean the written skill only. Documentation is to writing what a documentary is to cinema. The second most important part of documentation is how much information you can the little book of documentation 4
  • 5. retrieve, and put to work for you, in time. It does not matter how much information you have. If you have a million book library, and cannot access the particular information that you need in time, you are actually worse off than a person who does not have a library at all. Why document at all? All documents must be intelligent, intelligible, coherent and interesting. The most important part of documentation is getting people to read your document. For that reason, publication and distribution form a major, and integral, part of documentation, and this book. NGO documentation is primary for these reasons. · To support your work. This includes: ° Training manuals. ° Literature for beneficiaries. In this case distribution is taken for granted. · To share ideas and experiences, so that others can use them. These include: ° Case studies. But be clear about their appropriateness. Does anyone really want to read them? · Capture indigenous knowledge since it is needed and fast disappearing. the little book of documentation 5
  • 6. · Share knowledge, innovation and new technologies. · For advocacy. To change how people think, and then how they act. · Policy analysis. · As a part of a campaign. · To raise credibility. ° It could be an ambassador for the organization and make its expertise visible. · To become an information provider on a specific topic. · To generate income. Decide which of these reasons is the one for you. A myth is that good writers write perfectly the first time itself. Not so. Each document undergoes many revisions before it is even half way presentable. It takes time and effort. Yet, good quality documents are not difficult. Do you take photos? Then think of it this way. Every photo cannot be good. And, in professional photography, one star photograph in ten rolls and you are lucky! But it is only for special occasions that professionals are got in. For most occasions, the simple focus–free camera is better. And you can do wonders with just a little bit of effort. Concentrate on your successes and strong points. the little book of documentation 6
  • 7. 2 Before you start Documentation is one of the easiest things to do, if we follow a few simple guidelines and remember basic human psychology. Before you even put pen on paper, it is best to use the ‘WH’ rules, in this order. We will be using these rules again while writing. WHY am I documenting this? Have a measurable response to this. Normally it is for three reasons. · To inform. · To persuade. · A call to action. WHAT do I want to say? Say it in one sentence as a check against overloading, and a check for clarity. A saint was once asked to explain his philosophy standing on one foot, in one sentence without taking a breath. A good practice for all writers as well. WHO is the intended reader? Have just one reader in mind, preferably a real person. Then the writing will flow better. Think of the person in terms of gender, age, education, the little book of documentation 7
  • 8. rural or urban, interests, income, and what else she reads. WHEN is the document needed? At an event? A season? Work your deadlines backwards. For instance, if the document is needed on 15 August 1947, then you should start writing much earlier. Say a week for the actual writing, two weeks for interviews and reference, a week for editing, two weeks for typesetting and proof, and two weeks for printing. Add another one week ‘just in case’. So you’d have to start writing nine weeks earlier—on 7 June 1947 itself. And this is being quite optimistic. WHERE is the document going to be used? · In libraries. · In the field. · How long does it have to last? After these ‘W’ questions, we come to the ‘H’. HOW? This is the final step, and is to be done only after the previous questions have been answered fully. If the process has been followed, then how the document will best suit the intended reader will be clear. the little book of documentation 8
  • 9. Now decide the following. · Language. ° Which language will be used? ° How specialized or how technical? ° How formal, emotional or factual? ° How simple a vocabulary? ° Which measurement units to use? [This is specially so for translations]. · Medium [Which is best: print, audio visual?]. · Format [book, brochure...]. · Formality of design. · Length. ° How much information should be given? Your document can often be twice as good if it is half as long. ° Simplify and reduce, but do not leave out facts. Be careful, don’t change the idea. Should we publish? All documents must be interesting. But all documents need not be published. If the intended audience is large, and the purpose supports it, then it may be better to publish. Even if you do not want to publish the document, it would be fruitful to go through these additional questions. the little book of documentation 9
  • 10. · Quantity. ° How much do we need? It is normally cheaper to go in for reprints than go for a higher print run the first time. · Budgets. ° This decides the quantity to be printed and the quality of the printing material. ° How much people can pay for the material could also decide this. If you do not have this information, it is likely that you are documenting for someone else. In that case, get a written terms of reference. The terms of reference should include the end use of the report, the preferred style, and the audience for whom the report is written. Writing a report, printing a report, and publishing a report are three different things. They are specialized tasks, and should not be confused with each other. Write a report always. Print only if more than 200 people are willing to pay for it. Publish it if it is of relevance to a larger body and if you can ensure that you will distribute over 60% of your print run within the first year. Publish only what has lasting value for the general public. Be committed to a strong distribution system if you publish. the little book of documentation 10
  • 11. 3 The ABCs The ABCs of documentation are: Accuracy, Brevity, and Clarity. Accuracy Always be accurate in your facts. Facts are sacred, but comment is free. Do not understate or overstate. It might not bring you instant stardom, but once your integrity is recognized, your reward will be much more long lasting. Don’t get carried away by your own analysis and opinions. Do point out the unusual. But overall, give the people the facts, and let them come to the conclusions themselves. Treat them as adults. They will give you the same respect. The duty of a writer is to report facts and reflect reality. Good news should not be manufactured. But even the most macabre can be reported and documented with sensitivity. Brevity Brevity is the soul of wit, and all good writing. In this world no one has the time to read through large articles, unless they are forced to. What has the little book of documentation 11
  • 12. to be communicated has to be in a page. For anything more, follow the rule: First, tell the readers what you are going to tell them. Next, tell them. Finally, tell them what you told them. That is what we are doing in this book. The first paragraph of the first chapter told you what we are going to tell you. Then the whole body of the book tells you. We have skipped a summing up chapter—which would have told you what we told you. By the end of the book, you wouldn’t need it anyway. So we decided to save on the trees, the paper and printing costs. Instead we put in the check lists. Avoid asides. This chapter could have started ‘The ABCs of driving are the accelerator, brake and clutch. Similarly, the ABCs of writing are..’. The reader may like it, but does not need it. It does not add anything. The present opening is much crisper. Keeping your document brief makes people want to read it. Short documents reduce the cost of production and distribution. Generally a newspaper article should be about 1200 words, any other article about 1500 to 2000 words. Specialist journals have varying requirements, most often between 4500 and 5000 words, and a book 25,000 words upwards. If you the little book of documentation 12
  • 13. are not sure how long your write up should be, then it is better to be as short as possible. If your article is really interesting, then the editor will get back to you and ask you to expand on ideas. All that you know need not be put into one article—or one book. The golden rule is: be short, be sweet, be gone. People simply do not have the time to read through long winding reports or books, and people whom we would like to influence value their time in minutes, if not seconds. The one minute manager is a reality in all walks of life. Clarity Remember, what is very clear to you need not be so for the reader. Use short sentences. Use simple words. The objective of a writer is to make the readers understand what is written, not to overawe them with words they don’t. At the end of the day, people prefer the writer who talks to them, not the one who talks down at them—or one whose writings need a dictionary as a companion volume. Be particularly careful about words that you normally use. They can have different meanings for a person with a different background. Avoid jargon, unless you are writing for a very small group that you know intimately. Using cliches the little book of documentation 13
  • 14. may be bad ‘literature’ but it is good writing. It helps people understand with the minimum of effort. Cliches and jargon should be used only to make things easier to understand. How many really understand—or would want to—what a ‘paradigm shift’ is? Yet how often is it used in NGO meetings?! Good ‘literature’ often gets critical acclaim and left on the shelf. Unless what one writes is read, the very purpose of writing is defeated. Consider the following sentence: Community building for improving the lot of BPL is a good strategy, that has proved its worth. This seems to be a fairly straight forward piece of writing, but in the NGO sector ‘community building’, means organizing the people. BPL, for the government and those working for poverty eradication means the people ‘below poverty line’ and not the popular electronics company! There is actually the case of an auditor who wanted to see the ‘community building’ before he signed the audit statement. One possible alternative is to spell it out: Organizing the poor... If you are sure of your subject—and you shouldn’t be writing otherwise—then you will the little book of documentation 14
  • 15. be able to explain even the most complex ideas in simple words. If not, most people try to dazzle using bombastic language. It is our experience that non-creative academics are most prone to insecurity, and thus try to hide behind obscure language. Here are three ways in which a common task can be obscured by the expert cited by Richard Saul Warman in his book ‘follow the yellow brick road’. Name something that involves: · An understanding of geometry, spatial relations, algebra, manual dexterity, strategic planning and allotment of resources. · Many technical processes, arithmetic, timing, aeration, biology and behavior of materials. · Politics, economics, linesiology, game strategy, psychology and sociology. The answers, incredibly enough, are making a dress, following a recipe and football. When an author writes ‘I hope this project will initiate a mutually rewarding editor-author relationship’ the editor knows the meaning is ‘I hope you will publish my article’. It is usually better to write ‘use a spade’ rather than ‘employ a geotome’. If you write employ a geotome, the reader might use it on your work first. the little book of documentation 15
  • 16. When Raj Kapoor was making movies, he always advised his music directors and song writers to keep the songs simple. He said that he wanted songs that ‘people can hum on the way back from the movie, and whistle during work the next day’ and not technically perfect songs that win critical acclaim, appreciation from the audience, and are forgotten. When Karl Marx wanted to inform he wrote a book: Das Kapital. He refused to simplify it for, as he told his publisher, the working class will understand it as it concerns them. When he wanted to persuade, he wrote a tract: The communist manifesto. But when he needed a call to action he coined a slogan: ‘Workers of the world unite’. Any guesses which is remembered most? How many, even among the intelligentsia, have read Das Kapital? All are needed, but the purpose is different. Use the word with the exact meaning that you require. Use the simplest words. Development literature does not need flowery language nor the wealth of the dictionary. Use words to communicate, not to impress. The task of the writer is to demystify. Naturally, that cannot be done if what is being written about is a mystery to the writer also. A the little book of documentation 16
  • 17. writer is successful only when the writing is read. Not for nothing do we have the phrase simplicity of genius. The rule to watch here is KISS MII [pronounced kiss me], keep it short and simple, make it interesting. The first, obviously, need not always apply in real life kisses, but the second? Always. The ‘Wh’ rules How do we start? The easiest way is to answer these following questions: What, who, when, where, why and how. You are more than half way there already. Then come back and fill in the details. Asking the right questions is an art, more difficult than getting the right answers, and requires more skill. What happened, and to whom? When and where did it happen? Why did it happen, and how? The order is not rigid. For instance, if the place is the most important, or ‘newsworthy’, part of the story, then the ‘where’ comes first. The model could be a newspaper report that answers all these questions in the first paragraph itself. The next paragraph elaborates on some of the important information and the third typically gives background information. the little book of documentation 17
  • 18. The same report could have variations in nuance to capture the interest of the reader. The same factual statement can be reported differently for different audiences. Editing out irrelevant details, and simplifying the language are part of the effort. Example For a general audience The fiftieth anniversary of Indian Independence was celebrated on 15 August 1997, at Rashtrapathi Bhavan in New Delhi, by President K R Narayanan. For a dif ferent audience The first Dalit President of India, K R Narayanan, celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Indian Independence on 15 August 1997, at Rashtrapathi Bhavan in New Delhi. Another example For the government The prime minister said that attempts by the adivasi to claim their rights are the major cause of the atrocities against them. Government servants are implicated. For the police The police are often guilty of colluding with the criminals when the adivasi try to claim their rights said the prime minister today. the little book of documentation 18
  • 19. For NGOs Adivasi attempts to claim their rights are a major cause of the atrocities against them. The police side with the criminals said the prime minister. This is what the prime minister actually said. Attempts by the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to break away from this syndrome of deprivation and improve their lot and claim what is rightfully theirs, are often the principal cause of the atrocities that are perpetrated on them. There is a lack of sensitivity on the part of the police and the district administration... The law enforcers themselves, in many cases, fail to act promptly or collude with the other side. In all the reports, the prime minister is mentioned since the authenticity and impact of this well known fact is reinforced by who said it. To whom he said it, when [at the inaugural of the meeting of chief ministers on 4 October 1991] and where [in New Delhi] are not nearly so important. They could be omitted or retained depending on the audience you are writing for. the little book of documentation 19
  • 20. 4 Other related considerations Proximity There are several rules to be followed. All are meant to be broken. The first is called the ‘proximity’ rule. People are interested in what is near to them—and interested in what they are already interested in. All of us like news about our native place. News about humans takes precedence over animals, and animals over plants. In animals, those more human than, say, a new species of lizard. This is the way human nature is now. Perhaps at some future date we might be interested in all equally, but till then reporting should follow this. Pegging: intellectual judo How do we get someone interested in what we are interested in, and what is only of passing or no interest to them? The answer is pegging—like pegging the Indian experience on the African. First talk about what interests them. Then, once you hold their interest, connect it to what interests you. This is called ‘pegging’ because you peg your idea on their interest—just as in judo you use your opponent’s strength. the little book of documentation 20
  • 21. If you are writing for an African audience regarding the progress of India, you could start by telling them that both India and Africa went through bitter colonial experiences. This makes the problems, trials, and successes of India easier for the audience to identify with, and thus to understand. This rule actually follows from a rather elementary practice: speak in the language the listener understands. Similarly, use the idiom the reader understands. Pen–paint It is difficult to read and understand abstractions—particularly new ideas and concepts. So try not to write, but pen paint. Use imagery—the more vivid the better. Human beings think in images. Capture their imagination, and you capture your audience. Years later, the reader might forget everything else but the idea—simply due to the vividness of the image you drew. A picture is worth a thousand words. Read the following example: The undivided Koraput district in Orissa was larger than Keralam. Keralam is larger than all but three European countries. Yet Keralam is only 2% of the Indian land mass. the little book of documentation 21
  • 22. or Every language in India has more speakers than the total population of any two European countries. That holds the readers attention than: Most European countries are very small. In India, we tend to think in terms of lakhs [100,000, a hundred thousand] and crores [10,000,000, ten million]. The Americans think in millions and billions. Try this one. One billion is one thousand million. Most people do not know the scale of the difference—for all we can grasp is the ‘one’ in each. It is the peter principle at work. This could be approached in a different way: A man gave his wife a million Rupees and told her to spend a thousand Rupees a day and come back. She came back in three years. Next he gave her a billion Rupees and to her to do the same. She did not get back for three thousand years. A rather pleasant thought! Contrasts Another way to hold the reader’s interest is the use of contrasts. For instance: The Government of India says that rural development is a priority and spends Rupees 30,000 crores on rural development in the eighth the little book of documentation 22
  • 23. five year plan. But it spent Rupees 40,000 crores on the dearness allowance [DA] alone— excluding salaries and other perks—of its employees, who form just one percent of the population. Rural India is about 80% of the Indian population. After the pay commission the increase for the central government employees was Rupees 7,500 crores. The annual rural development budget is just over Rupees 6,000 crores! The turnover of TATA is over 10,000 crores. The same information can be rephrased: The pension and salaries of past and present government employees is over 2% of GDP. Or One litre of milk costs Rupees 10.00. One litre of water, Rupees 15.00. Or another... It is easy for a brave and heroic man to rape women, burn to death sleeping children, and destroy places of worship in the name of god and a ‘noble cause’. These are the opening lines from the sub-section of The Oxfam handbook of development and relief on ‘the farmer’. Most agricultural literature assumes that farmers are men. Most extension workers are men. Most agricultural training courses are for men. In reality, most farmers are women. the little book of documentation 23
  • 24. Defining moments Everyone likes to hear of acts of courage, and defining moments because of the human element involved. The rather dry voluntary sector reporting hides many such exciting moments. Bring them out. Example In one of the defining moments of the organization, the founder asked the team individually, and in private, whether they would be willing to continue working even if he could not pay them a salary. Basic necessities would be provided. The eight who agreed were trained to become leaders in their own right. Alternately There was an undercurrent of excitement. Yet no one knew why. It was only later that we—eight of us—knew we had crossed one of the defining moments of the organization. Anathan, the founder, asked the team individually, and in private, whether we would be willing to continue working even if he could not pay us a salary. Basic necessities would be provided. We agreed, but at the time it was a leap into the unknown. We were then trained to become leaders. Just a few words changed. But the difference is striking. the little book of documentation 24
  • 25. Humour This is one surefire way to keep the reader’s attention. Putting two unconnected and sometimes contradictory issues close together makes an impression. So also modifying popular sayings. Familiarity breeds. The law often permits what justice and common sense do not. For some reason, telling the truth is the most humorous of all. It is better to have loved and lost than not to have lost at all. There is no horse trading in parliament because there are only asses there. Even a dry, serious, piece has the potential for some sardonic comment, as for instance on the murder of 90% of the tribal and indigenous peoples in America by the Europeans. When Columbus’ men reached the shore, they fell on their knees and then on the natives. All the arms in the world do not provide the security of one embrace. You cannot buy a soldier’s honour, but you can get him to kill for a piece of cloth and a scrap of metal. Remember, though, that humour is quite parochial. In different circumstances it can be the little book of documentation 25
  • 26. misunderstood and achieve the very opposite of what is aimed at. There are wet blankets. NGOs—whether non government organizations or non gazetted officers—are not going to take kindly to a person who calls them no good organizations or officers! Most would also wonder what is so funny about calling CIA ‘caught in the act’, or IAS to mean I am stupid. Try to keep humour down to earth, which more people can relate to, than cerebral humour which may be above the heads of your audience. the little book of documentation 26
  • 27. 5 Political correctness The sensitivities of people, specially the excluded and the marginalized, must be taken into account. A few years ago it was OK to talk of the handicapped, then it became disabled, and now it is challenged: the visually challenged, etc. It is not mentally challenged though. The right terminology is ‘differently enabled’. Similarly from depressed classes, to harijans, to SC/ST to Dalit. Within the country itself, there is a lot of debate if one should use Dalit or not. It seems to be OK where the Dalit movement is strong, not so in others. In some places it is actually hated. Gender bias Fortunately, there are enough gender–sensitive words that we can use. If you do not know who is going to chair a session, for instance, use the generic chairperson or chair. If you do, use chairman or chairwoman as appropriate. Similarly for spokespersons... When we become sensitized to age we will probably use chairson and chair daughter. The following is from The Times of India, Bangalore, 10 January 1998, pc vocabulary for the little book of documentation 27
  • 28. the nineties woman, by Gita Aravamundan. PC stands for politically correct. Nineties PC is not always relevant to the Indian context. I’ve coined up a few definitions which the Indian writers on gender issues might consider using: Adjusting: [She was an adjusting wife, mother...] personality obliterated human being. Allow: [I allow my wife to work] patriarchal ‘consent’ given to an independent woman. Bride burning: gender specific matrimonial arson. Dowry harassment: victimization of involuntary recipient of matrimonial inheritance. Domestically trained or homely: [in matrimonial advertisements] willing domestic slave. Eve teasing: street sexual harassment Female Foeticide: gender selective foetal carnage. Female infanticide: gender selective infant massacre. The article itself has a large part written in ‘aggressive feminist pc vocabulary’ and is quite instructive. Use of humyn, instead of human is also advocated. Some NGOs, and we, use the feminine ‘she’ to include the masculine ‘he’. Short–hand codes Be aware of the short–hand codes: merit, for instance could mean no reservation nor affirmative action. Beneath very progressive labels hide some very reactionary ideas. The ‘uniform civil code’ is another political the little book of documentation 28
  • 29. instrument for Muslim bashing. ‘No dowry’ means the daughters do not get a share of ancestral property. ‘Conversions’ mean it is OK to rape defenseless women, and burn sleeping children, and ‘dharma’ to kill the Dalits. Keep your antenna out. Being politically correct is important. Otherwise you might alienate your readers. On the other hand, going full tilt with a fad may make a bulk of the readership wonder what you are talking about. Euphemisms are constantly going out of date, and new ones must be invented as the old become more explicit needing yet another level of veiling. Writing alone has not changed the world, and never think that your writing alone can. The burden of change is on all—and will outlast us all. By all means write with messianic fervour or missionary zeal but don’t use the club when the rapier will do, and always try the feather first. the little book of documentation 29
  • 30. 6 General conventions The conventions for credit and references have evolved over time—and are still evolving. Due to the all pervasive computer, the standardization has been to the American system. It differs only slightly from the British who, with the loss of their empire, have also lost the right to set the standards of the world. Rest assured that there is no ‘correct’ way. The only need is to be consistent, and to ensure that your idea is conveyed. Giving credit Acknowledgments are often the bane of a researcher. A person with a doctorate often has the bitter experience of the ‘guide’ or senior professor taking credit for the researchers’ work, and therefore continues this practice. This is an unfortunate reality. A people’s scientist should strive to get beyond this syndrome. Give credit freely and wholeheartedly. Mention all those who have helped in any way and how they have made this work possible. Do not tuck it away in small print. There are many researchers who dare not enter the places where they did research—the people are so hostile since the little book of documentation 30
  • 31. they have subsequently realized that the researcher has made use of them. This is also the reason that people now ask ‘you will get your doctorate, what will we get?’ Spend time with the people. Tell them what you have written about them. Explain how you are going to use the information. Reporters of many newspapers and magazines have the policy of not showing the final transcript to the concerned persons before printing. Do not follow that line. If our objective is smooth social change, it is best to carry all sections, as far as possible. Most people will be content to know that this option is available. Give lots of credit to everyone and anyone even remotely connected with the work. You can afford to. The people give their time and knowledge freely—knowledge that is gained through generations of actual field experience and experimentation—unlike the academics who often demand consultancy charges to share the information that they have got freely from the people. The least you can do is to acknowledge your sources. Mention how you were helped by each individual. Contrary to popular perception, it actually enhances the reputation. The people will love you for it. the little book of documentation 31
  • 32. At the same time, do not be apologetic or defensive. Though the people at the grassroots have the knowledge and, perhaps the skills, they do not write much. As long as the writer acknowledges that the field work is being done by others, there is no reason why the writer should not claim credit for breaking the story, though others are more knowledgeable and have been ‘working on the issue’ for decades. Those who carp on that are usually those who want to retain their fiefs. There is no need for writers to obey their dictum. Acknowledge and give full credit to those who are working on the field. But take full responsibility—if not the credit—for your report. Respect the people, but do not romanticize them. Acknowledge and value their contribution, but do not undervalue yours. References Build the references into the text. Give all the details in a bibliography at the end. Keep these sort of references and notes to the minimum. They are more an indication of insecurity, lack of scholarship and of pedantry than of knowledge. Any halfway intelligent senior school student can compile a good bibliography. Only a creative person can come up with new ideas. the little book of documentation 32
  • 33. Ask yourself, does the reader need to know this? Always keep the reader in mind. In this book we have mentioned those whom we have quoted. Has it helped your understanding? Would it have been better to put at the end, and explain each one’s contribution? You decide. Then do the same for your books. If you must use footnotes, then the first time a reference is quoted, you could give the whole reference as a footnote. The format is: author; name of book; publisher; year; page number. The author’s last name is given first, followed by the initials and the first name. The name of the book is usually in italics. The page number is preceded by ‘p’: [p16] if it a single page; or ‘pp’ if there are more: [pp23-30]. If you are only quoting an article from a book, then mention the name of author of the article, the article, the author or editor of the book and then the name of the book. Das, W M D, Perils of the JFPM MOU, in Winnu D, Forest Dwellers Today, .... If the book has more than two authors, mention the name of the first author followed by et al: Singh, V P et al; Experiments with Democracy the little book of documentation 33
  • 34. In the bibliography, at the end of the book or article, mention all their names. The second time onwards, use either ibid or op cit. Ibid is used when you are quoting from the same source as the one previously quoted. Das W M D, Perils of the JFPM MOU; in Winnu M D, Forest Dwellers Today,...p 16. If you are quoting from the same page—in this case page 16—the next time without any other reference in between, then the footnote should just read ibid. If it is a different page, it could be ibid, p 23. In case you have quoted some other reference in between, then you use op cit., together with the name of the author. The page number should be added if required. Joshi N M, op cit., p16 If the volume in question is a collection of articles edited by someone, then the name of the editor should be mentioned, followed by ‘ed’. If there is more than one editor, then it is mentioned ‘eds’. Singh K P and Fernandez, W (eds); Forest Dwellers Today,... p 16 the little book of documentation 34
  • 35. If you are quoting, put the original comments and authors brackets in rounded brackets ‘( )’ and your own additions in square brackets ‘[ ]’. Always indicate if the emphasis is your own or whether it was there in the original. The emphasis in the original is normally shown as italics, while added emphasis—the ones you have added to highlight your point—are shown as bold italics This raises the question, what if the original emphasis was in bold italics? Easy, just add a note saying “emphasis author’s”. If it is yours you say “emphasis ours”. the little book of documentation 35
  • 36. 7 Getting information All those involved in documentation should have access to the latest information. This does not mean that we have to buy all the books. Just be aware of where the information is available, and how soon you can access it. Ultimately it all boils down to that: how soon can you get the relevant data? Very often the information of priority for us is not so important to others. It is only to have ready access to the particular data and information, of interest to us, that we need and use frequently, that we collect and classify ‘cuttings’. This is one of the easiest ways of documentation. In its simplest form, this means taking a pair of scissors and cutting out material of relevance. Yes, all right, you can do it even without a pair of scissors. Use a blade then. First of all, chose areas of interest to you. It is best to keep it to the minimum. Let us assume the areas you require information all the time are: women, law, Dalits, Adivasis, and the political situation. At a glance we can see that most of the news fall under these categories. the little book of documentation 36
  • 37. In fact, ‘women’ itself is so comprehensive as to merit quite a few specialist resource centres. It is best to be more specific as: Women [general category] within which sub-categories could be: · Law. · Education. · Political situation. · Economic situation. · Social and cultural; Religious. and many more ... You can have a special category for an important event, for instance general elections, or world summits. Professionals opine that even two are too many for an individual. Up to a maximum of five areas of interest seem to be manageable, if you run a professional documentation centre. For individuals, it is best to stick to one topic, and specialize on information in your locality, district, province, country and the globe— preferably, but not necessarily, in that order. Know where you can get other information. Specialize and know the other specialists. How do I...? Keep a pencil and mark the passages and articles that interest you while reading. Do this the little book of documentation 37
  • 38. the first time you read itself. Very often pious intentions of getting back to important passages at the second reading results in just pious intentions. As soon as you finish reading, cut out these pieces, clearly marking from where you got it. Paste it onto a clean paper. On the paper, write down the source and date on which you got the information. Use the same size of paper for sticking cuttings on, right through. Keep these sheets in a loose-leaf folder, box file, or in a box made for the purpose. Classify them according to the sub-categories that you already decided. At the end of the month, neatly arrange them, and put them away where they can be reached easily. Label them clearly. At the end of the year you might want to bind the material. Bind your special topics separately. You could bind your data either all together in one volume, with divisions for the sub-categories, or different volumes for different topics. This should, in large measure, be determined by the quantity of data you have. The material you get could be from many different sources. Popular news magazines and newspapers apart, specialist journals and newsletters are rich sources of information. Directories of professional bodies are another the little book of documentation 38
  • 39. good source. You should have access to the latest census data, the world reports, the status of children and women and the important newspaper and magazine addresses. The World Bank, the UNO and UN agencies’ reports have official data from all countries, classified under different heads. Reports of ministries are published annually and contain the ‘official’ data. The more comprehensive data is still from the World Bank, the UN and UN agencies, since the government of India gives them the data they don’t share with Indians. Voluntary organization newsletters have a wealth of information. They are almost always free, and many are irregular. Depend on them for information, but not for punctuality—though things are changing here also. Keep a keen lookout for these occasional publications. The best information is still with the field based organizations that are too busy to write. Go out and meet them. Later, the data that you collect like this can be made into information you can use quickly. the little book of documentation 39
  • 40. 8 Letter writing Your letter should be well drafted and designed. It is often the first contact a person has with you. Those one hundred words make the first and crucial impression. Official Keep them as short and as brief as possible. Two or three lines is ideal. Not more than a page in any case. If you have to give more information, give it in additional sheets as annexes, with a covering letter highlighting the main point in a sentence or so. The person who reads your letter has a hundred decisions to take, and will appreciate an accurate, brief and clear presentation. The ABCs hold good everywhere. Add a personal note, no matter who you are sending it to. Postscripts are the most read parts of a letter. Never send a letter with a xeroxed signature, or signed ‘for’. If a person has the authority to sign for the director, she certainly has the authority to take such a decision—so why can’t the decider sign it? Moreover, it conveys a subtle meaning that the real authority does not have the time for the the little book of documentation 40
  • 41. reader—many people throw such letters into the dust bin—or that the person is very dictatorial, highly insecure and cannot delegate. Format From Your address comes here, if you are writing on a plain sheet of paper. Omit this is when using a letter head. To The address of the person you are sending it to. Reference: This is the reference number or filing codes. Dear Sir, Subject: Text of Letter Sincerely, Signature [Name] [Place] [Date] the little book of documentation 41
  • 42. Example From Change Agents 23, Market Street, Bagalur Village and Post India 110103 To The India Desk Officer India Philanthropy Foundation 221B, Bakers Street, New Delhi 110001 Reference: IPF/prop/05/2001 Dear Sir, Subject: Project for help line for street children Enclosed is a project proposal to set up a help line for street children in the four metros in 2000–2001. The total outlay is Rupees 20 million, inclusive of 12% administrative costs. Kindly contact us for any clarifications. Looking forward to a favorable response. Sincerely, Nitish Joshi Nitish Joshi Bangalore 23 January 1999 the little book of documentation 42
  • 43. Personal We live in a very depersonalized and depersonalizing world. Letters help us regain that human touch. Always write personal letters by hand. Then the personal bond comes through. By all means send typewritten letters. But even the most awfully copied poem is better appreciated. Totally personalize it. Do you have personal codes? Use them liberally. The format for this varies. As long as the receiver understands who it is for, and who it is from, there are practically no limits. It can include any number of languages, styles and dialects, including slang and drawings. The objective in informal personal letters is to give a person a part of you. How much you want to give depends on the strength of the relationship at present—and how much you want it to be in the future. A variation of the personal letter is the love letter. While some of the best writings are on the adventures of the heart, the language of the heart still eludes our grasp. Love brings out the latent poet, and even the halting speaker suddenly turns eloquent. While these are undoubtedly documents of tremendous value, no one seems to need any coaching for it. the little book of documentation 43
  • 44. 9 Project proposals Project proposals and other such requests for support are important documents. In them you commit yourself to a certain course of action, based on an analysis of the present. Preparing your document well and attractively does most of the work in getting it sanctioned. Have a cover sheet which gives the name of your organization, address, title and duration of project, objectives of the organization and the project; total project costs, local contribution, local institutional donations and foreign contribution required, and bank account number. It should also indicate the legal status. State your objectives. Then the process by which you propose to fulfill them. It is good practice to have a brief history of your organization, and the audited statement of accounts for the previous three years. These indicate institutional capacity for carrying out the proposed programme. Many government departments and institutional donors have a particular format for proposals. Remember, while private donors do not mind if you budget three chairs, and buy the little book of documentation 44
  • 45. three benches instead, if you do that in a government programme be prepared for endless rounds of questioning and also stoppage of funds. When the government says three chairs, it means three chairs, not three sofas, not three stools, but three chairs. The proposal should be as short as possible, but as comprehensive as necessary. Though you have only one proposal, the project officer has to look through many, and is also human. Give an abstract that shows the linkages between all the activities—both between the existing and the proposed, and between the different components of the proposal. Even very flexible institutional donors have a format for the budget. Use it. Some insist on a ten percent allocation for staff training, institution building... Even if they don’t it is good to have such an allocation. Most prefer institutional and administrative costs to be below 15 percent. Do not under– or over–estimate either your goals or your expenses. It indicates lack of touch with ground reality. It is a surefire way of getting your proposal rejected. Even if the appraiser does not know your area, she will get many proposals from there and will be able to do a comparative the little book of documentation 45
  • 46. analysis. If you feel your estimates are on the higher or lower side, it is better to explain why. Send the proposal to one donor only. You should get a reply in a month. If you do not you are free to approach another donor for support. The project funding cycle is usually—though not always—from April to March. Appraisals start by late October, for the coming year. Send your requests by mid–October, so that you have plenty of time for approaching as many donors as possible. If you are approaching multiple donors, inform each of them of all the others you are approaching and the percentage you would like each of them to support. Donor agencies specialize, geographically and sectorially. So your chances are better if you approach the one which supports the issues you take up. Child Relief and You, CRY, for instance supports interventions that take up, naturally, children’s issues. There are cutoffs for donor support. Some have a ceiling—they will not support more than Rupees one million a year—or a floor limit— they will not support a group with less than Rupees one million a year. Take your pick. Don’t let that discourage you. If one donor cannot support, and the initiative is deemed the little book of documentation 46
  • 47. necessary, then they will either make an exception, or direct you to the right place. Lack of money has never stopped a dedicated group. Proposal proforma A request for support, your project proposal, must be clearly distinguished into two parts. The first is about the organization. The second about the programme for which support is requested. It is good practice to have a section on how your project helps your supporters fulfil their policy objectives. Most donors prefer proposals to be less than ten pages long. Anything more, have them as annexes. Even donors who request longer proposals ask for an ‘executive summary’. Organization data · Name of organization and full address. All addresses should include the pin code. · Contact person and designation. · Telephone, fax, telex, e–mail account. Include the country and area codes. · Bank account number, name and address. Analysis of the situation, problem and focal community In this section describe the situation and developments that influence the proposed work. Answering the following questions could help. · What is the situation in the project area? · What are the changes? · What caused them? · How can they be solved? the little book of documentation 47
  • 48. · What are the problems foreseen in trying to solve these issues? · What is the position of the community within society? · What are their problems and needs? · How did you define these needs? Objectives, strategy, expected impact, gender perspective · Intervention strategy: What are your organization’s short–term and long–term objectives, and how do you plan to realize them? · Expected impact. What improvements will you make in the lives of the community? · How will you attain social and economic improvements in the position of women who work in your organization and for your programmes? · Explain the connections between objectives, strategy, expected impact and gender perspective in the relationship with the analysis. Management How does your organization function? Are there any relatives on the board or staff? Explain how the decisions are taken. Send information on: · Organization structure. · Staff policy. · Monitoring and evaluation policy and systems. · How you improve skills. · Gender ratio in different posts. · Gender ratio in income. the little book of documentation 48
  • 49. History · Accomplishments. · Strengths. · Weaknesses. · Problems encountered. · Lessons learnt. · Steps taken to translate these lessons into policy. Cooperation patterns This is a good section to have if only to show your reach. For all of them indicate whether it is at the policy level, implementation level or both. · Who else is working in your area? You could indicate areas of commonalty and divergence. · Which networks are you a part of? · Do you cooperate with the government? What are the conditions? At what level? Financing Give your total budget for the last three years. Break it up into · Local contributors, individual. · Local contributors, institutional. · Government funds. · Own income. · Foreign donors, individual. · Foreign donors, institutional. · Foreign donors, government. Indicate the expected funding for the next two years. Mark clearly those that are not yet confirmed. Future perspective · Expected growth. · Expansion of activities. the little book of documentation 49
  • 50. · Expansion of geographical reach. · Plans to become self–supporting. · Possible withdrawal strategies and time. This ends the section on the organization. The next deals with the programme. Background information on the project Why is the project needed? · Problems and needs in the project area. · The situation of the focal community. · A map of the project area. Objectives · Long term objectives. · Short term objectives. · How do they fit in with the organizational objectives. How this project helps the supporters to fulfill their policy objectives For this you will need to research your supporters. Find out what their key policy objectives are. Then explain each in detail. Most have just one or two key objectives. History of the project This is if it is a continuing project. In which case · What were your accomplishments in the previous periods? · What were the strong and weak points in implementation? · If you are approaching a new donor for an ongoing project, explain why. the little book of documentation 50
  • 51. Project preparation This is sometimes called need identification. · How did you identify this need? · Who planned this project? The NGO, government, the affected people themselves... ? Project activities Explain each of the activities. Include how you propose to do them: the strategies. Distinguish between output and impact. Output is the concrete, quantifiable data. Impact is the sustained changes in the community that will take more time to be visible. For each activity have: · Background data. · Expected results. · Finance required. · A time frame. Institutional competence · What is the institutional expertise that you have to implement this programme? · How are you going to strengthen this capacity? Include staff training and such measures. Cooperation patterns Here mention only those that are relevant and have direct impact on the project. Sustainability This is a new catchword. · Cost benefit ratio. [Include both the financial and social aspects]. · Feasibility. If it is a relatively big project, have an independent feasibility study or, if it is small, compare it with similar projects near by. the little book of documentation 51
  • 52. · Can the project become self–supporting at some time in the future? · How does the project help in making the community sustainable? · Will the project impact negatively on the environment? Annexes · Articles of association or trust deed. · Audited financial statements for three years. · Registration under the FCRA. · Budget. · Map of project area. · Project implementation calendar. · Annual reports for past three years. · Evaluations for the past three years. · Case studies and other publications. · Photographs. the little book of documentation 52
  • 53. 10 Project report writing A good project report ensures that your next proposal is sanctioned. Keep as close to the truth as possible, though success might lead to flights of fancy. State your objectives. Then the process by which you went about fulfilling them. State the results. Next do an analysis of why you exceeded or did not achieve some of your targets. Explain why. There could be important lessons for you from both. If your actual results are way off the mark—by more than 10% in any case—then you probably are not in tune with ground reality. Base the report on your proposal. If there is an over– or under–achievement in any sphere— programme or budget—explain why. It usually indicates bad planning or lack of foresight. You better have good reasons ready: some could be out of your control, others not quite so. Itemize. Do not under–report your failures or go over board with your success. With the emphasis on ‘peoples participation’ NGOs now tend to under–report their role and present all the work done as if done by the people. Be honest. Project officers have an equally good understanding of the little book of documentation 53
  • 54. field reality, and will appreciate respect for their intelligence. Government departments and institutional donors have a particular format for reporting. Stick to it by all means, but do not stop at that. Share your joys and sorrows with them, even if as an annex. This could be a case study or two. Most formats for reporting take away the human element of the work. Our task is to put it back in. Don’t worry, they will be interested. Remember the proximity rule. Report format Always refer back to your proposal while writing your report. While certain heads such as organization details remain the same, a few heads will need to be added. Significant developments Progress in · Fulfilling objectives. · Project activities. · Institutional development. · Cooperation. Problems · What are they? · How have you solved them? or · How do you propose to solve them? the little book of documentation 54
  • 55. 11 Case study All interventions have specific impact. Some of it can be expressed through numbers—humans love good figures—some of it can be illustrated by the changes that were brought about. Underneath it all lies the bedrock: what significant impact, if at all, did the intervention make in the lives of ordinary people. It is this that the case study deals with. Case studies put back the human being as the centre of development. It can even be in such ‘boring’ things as selecting the second line leadership or the new ‘core group’. A case study traces the impact of one intervention, or a combination of them, on one entity. In some cases, the ‘entity’ it covers could be a group of people, such as an entire village or organization. Since the objective of a case study is to put back the human element, it is most often best to deal with one person. Start with the situation in the area before the intervention. Then narrow it down to the person on who the focus will be. Take the events in chronological order. Point out the struggles, and triumphs. Draw attention to the emotions, the the little book of documentation 55
  • 56. support and hostility, the personal traumas. Remember, we are documenting a human story. Do not hesitate to bring in the human emotions. End with the unfinished tasks, and the next areas that the person or community will address. Do not give the impression that one particular intervention solved all the problems—that normally is not the case. Give credit to the external supporters and the tide of history. Using the worst case scenario for the ‘before’ intervention makes good copy—it makes the achievement all the more significant, with the contrast. Do not fall into the trap. It is not necessary either. A person told us, if we were to read all the project reports and take them at face value, all the problems of poverty have been solved many times over. Once you lose credibility, it is very difficult to regain it. Case studies are for very many different reasons. Some of them are: · To illustrate a point in 20 to 30 words. · A short case study of a person affected in about 100 to 200 words. · A longer case study. · A composite [or fictional] case study. · A quotation from an affected person. Each requires a different approach. the little book of documentation 56
  • 57. A good case study can be written in 250 words or less. The following case study is to illustrate the point that men and women react differently to revolving leadership. Ego of a CEO Change Agents has a revolving leadership. After women complete their term as the CEO they go back to their previous roles. Men, however, do not relish the idea and often leave the organization. Being personal is an integral part of the case study. Case studies show the progression of change—for good or bad—in the life of a person or community. This one is quoted from the organization ACCORD’s documents. Planting the seeds of growth Through 1986 and a part of 1987, Stan visited every field where the planting operation was in progress. The following year he was not really needed... A few years later we had a highly skilled planting team. Locals—who had earlier said that Paniyas were not capable of learning such a skill—had to eat their words as they came to ask the Paniyas to help them lay contour lines. The following is a longer case study. All case studies need not be as long. the little book of documentation 57
  • 58. Towards self–sustenance: A fistful of rice Programmes cannot be self sustaining if outside input is required forever. So there have been many attempts to make the programmes sustainable. In this arena of self sustenance, Change Agents does face obstacles. In the villages initially covered, Change Agents took the role of delivery, without contribution from the people. So the people got used to getting without giving. Now it is proving to be difficult to get them to contribute to the programme. One method is to collect a fistful of rice or millet, locally called ragi, per day per family. This is put in tins kept next to the fireplace, so that the women can contribute to the nutrition programme. At the end of the month, all this is collected at the balawadi. At present, grains sufficient to run the nutrition programme for fifteen days are collected in this manner. Though Change Agents is continuing efforts in the direction, it is a Herculean task. Where they started working later, the people’s contribution was ensured right from the start. The progress and contribution in these villages has been much more significant. Change Agents insists on contributions, however small, from the people to nip the dependency syndrome in the bud. Thus, while the conceptual and programmatic progress of Change Agents has been tremendous and constantly evolving, the picture is not all rosy. Some islands of resistance do exist. the little book of documentation 58
  • 59. The paternal state syndrome One illustration of the breath of intervention is that at the anganawadi. The instance of total reliance and depending on Change Agents has been cited above. The government runs anganawadis, child care centres, in villages. These cater to the children just for a part of the time—from 10.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. A meal is served there for the children during that period. During two months in 1995, for some reason, the government did not provide food grains for the anganawadi. The people were at a loss as to what to do. Some parents asked Change Agents to sponsor the programme. Change Agents, they knew, would not refuse due to its concern for children. Indians are specially prone to the paternal state syndrome. It can perhaps be rationalized, but the detrimental effects on self–reliance and action are a reality. It is one of the challenges of the NGOs to make the people retake control over their lives and not expect others—specially the government—to do even the most basic tasks for them. It is a measure of their surrender to this syndrome that the proposition of Change Agents took them all by surprise. They were asked why they couldn’t make good the temporary shortfall—for the children were theirs! They had not thought of it on those lines at all and were hard pressed to reply. However, Change Agents assured them of support on condition that they also contribute towards one meal. After discussions, they agreed. After the government resumed supply of provisions, Change Agents was able to continue a good three meal the little book of documentation 59
  • 60. programme for fifty children at the cost of just Rupees 800 per month to itself. The children now are in the balawadi the whole day and get three wholesome meals. For this minute input, Change Agents can find donors even from within the country . This sort of cooperation is what Change Agents’ interventions will be moving towards. A part each by the · The affected people themselves. · The government, and · Change Agents, which will channel external support, whether from within or outside the country. In this situation, when parents—even those who can afford to do so—look for external assistance to feed their children, one can see the feudal dependent psyche that leads people to look outward, specially to the state, for benefactors. On the other hand, one can see the retreat of the state at the macro level. Thus there is a vacuum created, as also a gap between people’s expectation and the capability of the state to fulfil these expectations. It is this vacuum that civil society, in the form of NGOs, seeks to address and fill. This gap will only get larger in the following months and years, as the state—that encouraged the people to focus all expectations on it—retreats even further and is unable to fulfil even minimal expectations. The role of NGOs is going to be that much more difficult, as they also strain to close an ever widening gap while facing a resource crunch themselves. the little book of documentation 60
  • 61. Change Agents’ action plan of involving the people, the government, and external supporters, is in the light of this scenario. Since the gap is bound to grow larger, enabling the people to close the gap by depending more on themselves and initiating action for change without looking for external actors becomes a necessity. This should be a priority for NGOs who, even at the best of times, cannot adequately fill the vacuum created. When we were documenting Adivasi displacement, we had this unforgettable conversation with an old Adivasi woman. “What would you do if you become sick?” we asked her. She did not pause even for a moment. “First I’ll pray to our god. If that does not work, I’ll try a sacrifice. Then I’ll go for the treatment of our doctor. Then I’ll try country medicine. If all of them fail me, then I’ll go to the government hospital to die.” “But these are bad times. Now parents bury their children. Who will be there to bury us?” Direct quotes have a lasting impact. Notice that the language itself becomes much less formal. The use of short forms “I’ve”, “I’ll”, and “can’t” gives the authentic touch. Don’t over do it though. the little book of documentation 61
  • 62. 12 Process reports A process report is to documentation what systems analysis is to computers. It needs a higher degree of understanding of complexity, a wider grasp of reality, and a greater skill of simplification. A process report is, by definition, never complete. This is simply because processes themselves seldom are. A case study, often several of them, form the core of a process report. A process report covers a much larger time scale than a case study. The scope of the process report is much wider than a case study. It has to be a stand alone document that can give a comprehensive picture of the local situation to the reader. The different perspectives and changing expectations during the process need to be traced. A process report is more than just stringing together case studies in that micro-macro linkages are also covered. Obviously, one then needs to have a good grasp of the local, regional, national and international situation. This knowledge should be as eclectic as possible covering the socio-political situation, economics, culture, environment at all these different levels. Knowledge of the policy at the conceptual and the little book of documentation 62
  • 63. implementing levels, [they are different!] policy making and implementing bodies are necessary to give a holistic picture. We hope you noticed that ‘eclectic’ is the sort of word one should not use. A similar word, for instance ‘wide’ or ‘varied’, would be preferable since most readers would understand ‘wide’ or ‘varied’, but usually not ‘eclectic’. Similarly avoid jargon such as ‘micro–macro linkages’. Process reporters should at all times be aware that information is part of work. This means read, watch and listen to anything you can lay your hands on—from the holy scriptures to hard pornography and anything in between. If at all you have moral qualms about it, consider it a part of the job. If you are still weak hearted, then process reporting—or any of the information work—is not your cup of tea. In the following report some of the names have been changed. One woman’s story The impact of the total integrated intervention of Change Agents can be traced from the changes in the life of Vanitha. Vanitha belongs to a village in India. The village was identified by the jatha team for Change Agents’ intervention. At the first meeting, she was a shy person, the little book of documentation 63
  • 64. sitting in a corner of the room that had about 80 to 90 women. When it was proposed that the meeting start with a prayer song, the village women were a little reluctant to sing due to shyness, since it was the first time. But from the corner, Vanitha started singing—and that too a classical song. This seeming ‘forward behaviour’ at the first meeting showed but a glimpse of her potential, and hid the personal crisis that she was undergoing. At the time, she was a broken women. She had lost her husband. He had developed liver problems due to heavy arrack drinking and had died a slow, agonizing, death. She was left with two daughters to look after. Moreover, she is a Dalit. All these are heavy burdens to bear, more so for a young woman. Village communities seldom have enough space for a young widow with other handicaps in the forefront of the community. Before Change Agents came to the village, the village used to come together to celebrate festivals and other functions such as weddings. That tradition was slowly dying out. The village justice system—though it had only men—was also breaking down. It was at this juncture that Change Agents came to the village, and a union was formed in it. The women were taught to conduct meetings and other social skills. The women of the village were united in this forum. This was the first time that they could come together and share their problems as women. It was such a relief just to talk to each other. From sitting at home, in isolation as it were, it was a big step to share their joys and sorrows. the little book of documentation 64
  • 65. The sharing was on everyday matters at first, and then went on to more general themes of common good. Children’s education, hygiene, electricity, state of the bore well, drainage, road repairs, group activities and unity were all discussed. Then, after the group moved on to savings and credit management, they also used to decide whom to give loans to and other related matters. Slowly the breadth and depth of their discussions increased. As the group took on more responsibilities, the discussions also changed. With such encouragement, Vanitha began to come out of her shell and bloom. Vanitha, together with the Change Agents team, created space for herself and became the leader of the village women’s group—the Mahila Sangha. Savings and credit management The women used to save between Rupees five to thirty every fortnight. In three years their total savings crossed Rupees 35,000.00. They propose to start a Women’s Rural Development Bank. From January 1995, they have started to take loans also. The loan amount can be up to twice their savings. Loans are disbursed at 24% interest per annum. This compares favorably with the local money lender’s rates of 120%. Most of the loans go for buying seeds and for small household necessities. Since the money is deposited in the bank, the women have also learnt how to operate a bank account, and to sign their names. the little book of documentation 65
  • 66. Environment The village common lands were not being put to the best possible use. So the women asked the authorities— both the civil and the social—for permission to use the land. On getting permission from them, the women planted over 300 saplings, at the rate of five per family. Medicinal, fruit, timber and green fodder producing varieties were planted. Initially, all the members took care of the trees, but later it was found easier to have one family to take care of the community wood–lot. The union and Change Agents assisted them in this programme. Enthused by the programme, they took up a popularization campaign with the slogan ‘one family one tree, one village one forest’. Now, from their own forest they get green fodder, other food for animals, the birds no longer migrate, and it benefits the poor in many different ways. The empowerment process Gradually, Vanitha started helping in the balawadi and getting involved in other activities. It was not long before she was recognized as one of the most active of the union members. So when the village faced problems regarding electricity, it was but natural that she was part of the group that went to set things right. Though there were electricity poles put up and the lines were drawn, there were no street lights there. Due to the darkness, slush in the rainy season, and the snakes, it was difficult for the children to go to the night school. Repeated representations to the panchayat member from their village brought no response. So the the little book of documentation 66
  • 67. women decided to go directly to the electricity office and meet the concerned person. Twenty women walked more than five kilometers to the mandal panchayat and met the chairman. Being the first time that they were meeting such a high official, they were naturally hesitant and a bit apprehensive. Opening the conversation with a polite—even diffident—namaste, the traditional Indian greeting with folded hands, the women told him their problems. Some were so overwhelmed, that they were literally trembling during the discussion. He was evasive and non–committal. He said that it was a problem everywhere and that there was no provision in the budget for it. This was not the truth. The fact is that the allocation was diverted for something else. Anyway, since he said that he would do what he could and asked for a week, the women went back. When nothing happened even after a week, the women returned. This time the man was abusive. On coming to know that they were from the mahila sangha, he alleged that the women were being instigated by Change Agents, else how could they get the courage to question him? The women retorted that they did not need to be instigated to get their problems redressed. Giving the officer another eight days, they went to the Block Development Officer, BDO. Since it was the day of the weekly market, he thought that the women had come on a pleasure trip and casually dropped into his office. On hearing their request, he was also abusive. He said that the women primarily came to the fair, and used the excuse of making a complaint to get out the little book of documentation 67
  • 68. of their home on the particular day. He was gently reminded that he was supposed to be a public servant. When he did not agree to the installation of the lights even then, the women said that they were like his children and he like their father. They wanted a commitment on the lights immediately. They were firm that they would not leave the office otherwise and made it clear to him. He pondered for a while and then asked them to give him a rope to hang himself and commit suicide. The women, in a mature response, replied that it was not their intention. They even made light of the issue saying that if it happened then they would not get their request. They reiterated that they would not leave till the lights were sanctioned. Conceding that he had met an irresistible force, the BDO phoned the panchayat office and gave the order for installation. The street lights were put up post haste. Even now, the fused bulbs are replaced immediately. Ripple ef fect This confidence in dealing with the government was put to good use in other areas also. They requested, and got, mini tank. So also a request for a new building for the anganawadi. Enlarging the scope of the anganawadi, related above, was also in this village. Almost the same process was followed by the women to get a milk cooperative sanctioned. Going to the district manager of the milk cooperative, they were brushed off by him and asked to ‘come tomorrow’. They stayed there overnight and when he came to the office the next morning, he was surprised to see the women the little book of documentation 68
  • 69. there before him. He asked them how they had managed to get there so soon from their villages. When they replied that they had not gone back but had spent the night there, he was even more shocked. Impressed by their determination, he sanctioned a cooperative, the first general body meeting of which was held on 7 June 1995. Recognition At first the men of the village did not recognize the potential of the group. This changed only due to the activities undertaken and the fair amount of success achieved. The road to the village was in disrepair. Despite the efforts of the men, it could not be made good. It was not motorable. The women paid for the road repair from their savings. Change Agents contributed a part. The men were also cooperative and helped in the work. With recognition coming their way, the union has also gained confidence in itself. They want to construct a new building for the anganawadi, and also petition the district commissioner for a bus to their village. They also participate, and in some cases lead, struggles at the state and district levels. In spite of this, it is not a road of only successes. Though they were in the forefront of the anti–arrack campaign in the state, they are unable to totally stop the consumption of arrack in their village. Towards solidarity With growing confidence, the women felt the need for unity at a broader level. Initially, their method was to the little book of documentation 69
  • 70. keep it small, so that they could solve the problems in their village. They felt that if they could solve the problems in their village, they could do it anywhere. Once they got the confidence of problem solving in their village, they decided to reach out to the others. To this end, Okuta, the federation of the unions at the taluk level, was formed and also one at the district level. Three women from each of the 104 villages come. Now they are joined by women of other villages also. The objectives are the unity of women, awareness and solidarity. It takes collective decisions regarding trainings to be conducted, invitations to government officials, and policy matters. In fact, it was here that the anti–arrack campaign was decided up on. One of the wishes of the founder of Change Agents was that all the women in the villages where Change Agents works should meet. As their confidence grew, the women also expressed such a desire. So on 5 April 1995, about 6000 women came together for a solidarity camp. The women contributed Rupees 140,000 of their own savings for the programme. The solidarity camp was an emotional experience for all. For the Change Agents team, it was a long cherished dream come true. For the women, they were meeting together for the first time. That day was made into a very special one for them. A village band walked in front of the women, leading them to the venue. This is a very high honour in the village, given only on rare occasions for very important people. From the road, they literally got a red carpet welcome. At the meeting itself, the children showered flowers on the little book of documentation 70
  • 71. them as part of the welcome song. All this was a heady mix. Tears glittered in the eyes of many women in this emotionally surcharged moment. It was not all glitter only. Five papers were presented by the women and the guests—the minister, the local MLA etc.—were asked to respond. Vanitha read out a paper on alcoholism. The other papers were on Women and Housing and other related issues. The local MLA was in charge of housing. So he replied to the paper on housing, and the Women’s Development Commissioner replied to the paper on Women and Development. Naturally, this was the result of a lot of spade–work. The process was set in motion almost a year and a half before the actual function. The women were trained and given adequate practice to read and explain the papers they were presenting. At the end of it all, it was well worth the effort. One note of sadness was that the founder was not present, though his spirit certainly was. A journey of a thousand miles: the anti–arrack campaign Every journey, no matter how long, starts with a single step. The anti–arrack programme was a combination of awareness creation and banning the sale of arrack in the villages. Initially, the shops in far off places were exempt since the men could not go a long distance for arrack at night. The first thing tackled was the shop in the village. The union wrote letters to the Chief Minister. The dealers got wind of the move and picked up a quarrel with the union. They also tried to get the police on their side against the women. Strong words were used. the little book of documentation 71
  • 72. The vendors were told that the union would recommend alternate income generation programmes for them. Though they were ostensibly agreeable, they were not too keen in practice. There were two vendors, and both continued their trade in the pretext that the other would not close. Each wanted the other to close first. Finally the women surrounded the shop and forced its closure. This is only a partial victory, since under the counter sales continue, on demand from the men. Vanitha had a personal stake in this. Her husband had died in 1987 due to alcoholism, after an excruciating illness for two years. She wanted to ensure that it did not happen to anyone else. Since her mother looks after the home, her daughters and the farm, Vanitha has some space to be actively involved in the federation and campaigns. Scaling up It became clear as the campaign progressed, that banning arrack should be a policy of the government. So the agitation was intensified for that. The state network of voluntary organizations was roped in. Women conducted demonstrations. The movement was recognized as a potent one and the then Congress[I] government gave an assurance that the sale of arrack would be banned after 15 June 1995—a date conveniently after the elections. This was partly due to electoral compulsions, since the elections were fast approaching. They needed the votes from the women, and the money from the liquor lobby—hence the equivocation and the stalling. But they the little book of documentation 72
  • 73. were voted out of power, and the new government is not so sympathetic. Twenty thousand women signed a petition to Chief Minister Gowda requesting the ban. When the women were having a demonstration in Bangalore, on 17 March 1995, they went to request him to come. They met him at his house. He did not stop to talk to them, but kept on walking. Vanitha, with quick thinking, ran ahead, blocked his way by standing in front of him, and greeted him with a polite ‘namaste’. With his escape route cut off, he had no option but to listen to their request. By this time the rest of the delegation also reached. After listening to them he excused himself saying that he could not attend their meeting since the budget session of the legislative assembly was on. The delegation however got an assurance that he would send a minister, and not a bureaucrat, to the meeting. This was agreed upon and two ministers, the minister for minor irrigation—an unintended comment on the issue!—and the home minister, attended. Personal growth When the World Bank officials came to see for themselves the manual desiltation of tanks, she sang the ‘prayer song’—a song on the role of the tanks in the life of the people. The officials were so impressed that they took back with them to Washington a recording, transcription and a translation of her song. Even today, she composes and sings songs. From the trembling appellant in front of the panchayat official to the confident, quick thinking, leader accosting the little book of documentation 73
  • 74. the Chief Minister, is quite a journey. The self–confidence gained on the way is enormous. She is recognized all over the district. She has come on television. All parties woo her for the elections. Though the growth of all the women are not so spectacular, it can be said with confidence that some form of empowerment has taken place for all the women due to the intervention of Change Agents. The report is part narrative and part analytical. Inclusion of some quotes will dramatically change it and bring it to life. Rewritten “Get out from my office”, he said. “How can you say that? You are like our father”, the women doggedly replied. “In any case we are not leaving till we get a firm commitment”. The BDO paused for a while. In desperation he said “Give me a rope to hang myself”. “But that won’t get us our lights”. They got their street lights. See how the people develop personalities that jump out of the page in conversation? Think of your audience. See if they will like it. If they do, you could reconstruct the exchanges. One thing you could notice is the use of the text design itself to give a particular message. the little book of documentation 74
  • 75. The rather heavy report is made slightly bearable [we hope!] with the use of subheads. The paragraphs in the conversation in the rewritten part are short and crisp. The ones in the analytical report are longer with blocks of text. They add to the formality or otherwise of the text. To wind up, here is an anecdote, without comment. After their historic first heavier than air powered flight, on 17 December 1903, at Kitty Hawk in U.S.A., the Wright brothers sent a telegram home to their sister saying ‘First sustained flight today 59 secs. Hope to be home for Christmas’. Their sister promptly showed it to the editor of their town newspaper. The next day, the headline read ‘Popular Bicycle Merchants to be Home for Christmas’. the little book of documentation 75
  • 76. 13 Workshop reports Workshop reports need to highlight the content. Keep in mind why you are reporting the workshop. Then the end use of the report and the audience will be clear. Otherwise the report will be a catch–all, and useless. Workshop reports should have the key points made in each presentation. Include the examples. The most important part is to include the key issues raised in the discussions. These discussions are mainly of two types. One, the questions from the floor and the clarifications by the experts. The next are the areas of divergence. Report these in detail. If a consensus was reached, report why. Else highlight the differing view points and mention that no consensus was reached. Speeches need drastic editing for coherence. Edit so that there is a logical flow of ideas. Connecting paragraphs will have to be put in. While the speaker and the listener can make the connections, on paper each idea and the links will need to be spelt out for the reader. This needs discernment. A good grasp of the subject is invaluable. There is a positive side too. A speaker the little book of documentation 76
  • 77. has to get it right the first time. A writer has a lot more time to polish it up. Reports should be published only if they are useful, but not as monuments to the conference. Even then, publish only papers that are useful. If publication is promised, and the authors are given good guidelines, then it is more likely that quality papers are submitted. Cut out the introductory talk, the list of participants, the schedule, the photograph with everyone smiling like a toothpaste advertisement gone wrong... Before publishing conference proceedings, save yourself a lot of time and trouble by following this simple system. At the end of the conference, if the meals were served on time, all participants would suggest that the proceedings be published. Agree immediately. Next ask them to go back, check with their organization how many copies they would need, and then write back to you how many copies of the report they would like to buy. Insist that it be given in writing so that you ‘know the exact number to be printed for administrative reasons’. Rest assured you will not get even one reply. If there is that rare breed of persevering delegate who writes back, tell the truth: there are too few the little book of documentation 77
  • 78. requests to justify publication. For the sponsors, a two page summary and a set of resolutions will be sufficient. If all the papers were circulated at the conference, this summary report and a copy of the resolutions are enough for the participants also. For your records, bind these together with the papers presented, the list of participants... That is all that is required. The participants will have their own full sets of documents. If they feel it is of lasting value, they will get it bound. the little book of documentation 78
  • 79. 14 Making documents attractive Most authors put in a lot of effort on their text. That is good. Once the text is ready give equal attention to the presentation so that the documents are attractive. People should want to pick it up. Think of it this way: There is such a lot of material competing for the readers attention. How can we make them choose ours? Remember way back in school the girl who got better marks because her handwriting was better and her book neater? That still holds good. The document must be neat. Good design is important. Headings and subheads Create a strong title or headline. This is what people scan first. Do not use jargon. Make people want to pick it up from a bookstore shelf. Titles, sub–heads and captions must be catchy. Use the KISS MII principle. Since these are the parts of the document that are done at the end, they are most prone to mistakes. For this reason, the saying is that if there is a mistake it will be in the headline is true. Always double check the headings, the sub–heads and the captions in the final proof. the little book of documentation 79
  • 80. The text design Layout and design are important contributors to readability. Avoid too many references and asides, it makes your work too pedantic. If you absolutely, desperately, need to have them, tuck them away as footnotes, so that they do not break the flow of the text. Put the footnotes at the bottom of each page.1 Fonts are of two types: serif and sans serif. A serif is the small line at the tip of each letter. This is said to increase readability, which is why most books are printed in serif typeface. Sans serif is mostly used for headings, leaflets and posters. This book is in a serif font. But the headings, subheads and the case studies [one woman’s story, ego of a ceo...] are in a sans serif font. Vary the styles to highlight or emphasize points and also keep reader interest. Use bold, underline and italics. Don’t over use them. Then the reader will be more conscious of the styles and layout than the content of your writing. Using bold in print is like shouting in a conversation. Don’t use more than two fonts on a single page. 1 For reason see end of book. the little book of documentation 80
  • 81. Use simple, strong design. Effective design in type means: a typeface that is easy to read and a type that is large enough to read easily. Do not change too many type faces or size. The prime concern is to gently lead the reader to your idea, not confuse with a shower of brilliant layouts, fonts and styles. Use of white space Take care of the balance between pictures and text. Too much text is intimidating. Too little margins make the book difficult to open and read. Too much white space is a waste of paper and later, during distribution, of postage. White space should indicate the transition of ideas between sections and be large enough for easy continuous reading between lines. Use white space intelligently for the contrast between print and paper, and for contrast between guideposts and normal text. Use lines that are neither too long nor too short. Fifty two characters, including spaces is the maximum. Short lines are awkward, unless they are short enough to scan. Read through the page proofs to see if there are any chapters that end with just a few lines on a page. Edit the chapter so that it ends on the the little book of documentation 81
  • 82. previous page itself. Similarly for paragraphs. Paragraphs should not end with just a word on one line. Edit those also. Use of short sentences comes in useful for this. Illustrations and photographs Illustrations and photographs should have a single, clear message. They should give solid information or create emotion. Make sure that they are technically good. Give them a caption. The caption should not state the obvious [‘Two women carrying wood’]. It should be as short as possible. The ‘movement’ of an illustration should be towards the reader or towards the book: From left to right on the left page, and right to left on the right page. Illustrations have to be in the idiom the audience understands. Keep in mind the ‘visual literacy’ of the intended audience. the little book of documentation 82
  • 83. 15 Computers Should you use computers? If you are systematic, go ahead. If not avoid it like the plague. A computer is a ‘more machine’. If you are good, it will make you better, ‘more’ good. If you are bad, it will make you worse, i.e. ‘more’ bad. If you put garbage in, then garbage comes out. Programme it wrongly, and you will find out why a computer is a wonderful machine that can make billions of mistakes per second. A computer is definitely an asset if you keep revising material, and specially if you are going in for offset printing. Errors can be minimized. With a little effort errors can actually be eliminated altogether. You can even format your entire book with coaching of just a couple of hours if you are already computer literate, or a couple of weeks if you are not. When should we buy a computer? The best time to buy a computer and accessories is September, since the industry gives a lot of incentives for people to buy at that time to avail of full depreciation. It is a good time to buy, though more people seem to buy in February and March. the little book of documentation 83
  • 84. Do not wait for the prices to come down— you will probably never buy a machine, because prices are always going to come down. What is rock bottom today will sink even further. Your consideration should be on your convenience. If you can afford one now, is it more convenient to get the machine today or after three months? The longer you wait, the more ‘bang for the Rupee’ you get. Technology is advancing so fast that unless you plan to upgrade your machine every six months, you will not be able to get spare parts for your machine. A couple of years and even getting software is difficult. For instance, in 1992, most software needed just 1 MB RAM—memory that can store one million characters. At the turn of the millennium anything less than 16 MB and good software is difficult to come by. The norm is to have 32 or preferably 64 MB. This is for normal desktop publishing. Price is another factor. It is coming down at about 50% per annum. Good pentium 4 machines are now available at about Rupees 35,000—with a DVD-CD writer combo drive, a printer and a scanner and 40 gigabytes of hard disk space. A gigabyte, GB, is a million million characters. In a few months these will be available for even the little book of documentation 84
  • 85. less—or most likely obsolete. If you decide to buy a computer, buy the fastest one you can afford. Keep your future needs in mind. This book is written on our 25 MHz Compaq notebook, with a 486 mother board, just 4 MB RAM, and a 170 MB hard disk. Quite an ancient machine by today’s standards. Yet we got it only in August 1995. Since our major work is writing—books or policy analysis—with very little numerical analysis, it serves us fine. For watching movies and other razzmatazz use the television. For fax and voice mail use a table–top machine. The important thing is not to let fashion steamroller you into buying a machine you have no need for. It is a very rare person who will use animated computer graphics for presentation in the voluntary sector. Most of the entry level machines are sufficient for the limited data processing needs, and cost about a third of the top–of–the–line models. Which computer to buy? If you do your own designing, then an Apple Mackintosh machine is preferable. They are a little more expensive, but much more user–friendly. They have many more features. the little book of documentation 85
  • 86. There is a saying that Apple 85 is Windows 95—highlighting the advanced features of the former. If you plan on doing only text, then even an IBM machine is enough. Regarding upgrades, do one of the following: i Buy a new one as soon as your warranty expires, typically one to three years. This is if you have connected your fax, telephone, answering machine, e-mail, music system, video .... to it. You are not likely to be satisfied unless you have the latest gadget. You are probably hooked on gadgetry. ii Buy the best in the market, and keep it for five to ten years. Your output—which should be the criteria for computer selection—is unlikely to demand upgrade. Most machines stabilize in three months, six at the outside. If you are a habitual insurer, insure your computer rather than taking an annual maintenance contract, AMC, it will work out cheaper. iii If you are buying a branded machine, remember that spares for your machine are available only for five years after they stop production. This usually means you will get spare parts for your machine, on average, for seven years after you buy it. After that you are on your own. Pentium III is no more under production. This is one more reason to buy an unbranded machine, apart from price. the little book of documentation 86
  • 87. Maintenance contracts If you do have an AMC, which may be cheaper in some contexts, check what is, and what is not, covered in the contract. Find out what preventive maintenance is done by the company, and what is the machine uptime they will ensure. Don’t get rattled with their jargon. Ask them to spell it out. MTBF may be 10,000 hours but what does that mean in uptime? Translated, even if ‘mean time between failures’ is 10,000 hours, what percentage of the time will they ensure that your machine will work? The higher the figure the better. Get it on paper. If you decide to use a computer, i Save your work every 10 minutes, no matter what. This is even if you do have an UPS or battery backup. Though it does mean that your work is slowed down by about 3 to 5%, in the long run you will be spared a lot of trouble. If your word processor has a timed backup facility, use it. Then the delay is unnoticeable. ii Always keep a copy of your day’s work on two floppies. Do not make more than two copies, and always update both. If not, you normally end up being confused as to which copy is the latest. Worse, you might update or revise an earlier version, leading to considerable, and avoidable, headache. the little book of documentation 87
  • 88. Software Software is an indispensable part of the computer. Always buy legal software. You wouldn’t want someone to pirate your books would you? Computerized databases are indispensable for data storage and analysis specially for data that must be analyzed and retrieved in different ways. There are many software packages that assist in this. For documentation that involves a lot of text, Star Office Microsoft Word, Wordstar and Wordperfect are good packages. A provision for tracking changes in text comes in quite handy. ‘Text-only’ files use the least space. For preparing page layout, the most popular package in India seems to be PageMaker. Ventura is another good package, specially for books. Quark Xpress is another favourite. For illustrations there are CorelDraw and Photoshop. The amount of manipulation possible with them is mind boggling. Which is the best? The one you learn first. Let your DTP operator choose the software. You concentrate on the design, for the moment. [Later we will advice you to concentrate on writing and leave designing to the designer, and the rest of the publishing process to the the little book of documentation 88
  • 89. publisher]. Contact your friendly systems analyst for more details on computers and software since there are constant updates and new software is available almost daily. Indexing and hyphenation Good DTP packages come with both these features. Use the first with care. Avoid the second. The reasons are simple. After you have finalized the layout of the book and taken out the master printouts, you could ask the computer to generate the index for you. The computer can auto generate an index that has all the words. That is practically useless. Go back and edit the generated index before you include it in the final book. Chop off any word that occurs more than once in ten pages. Let’s say your book has 300 pages. Any word that has more than 30 index entries should not be in the index. The index should be less than five percent of the length of the book. Auto hyphenation saves a lot of space, time and bother before printing. But while reading the book, it takes away from the flow of the book since the auto-hyphens are not put at appropriate places. It is better to go page by page and put those that are required manually. Better still, use unjustified text layouts. the little book of documentation 89
  • 90. 16 Information management Use e-mail for getting and sending information. It is simple, economic and efficient. You should be able to get about 500 hours of computer time for just thirty Rupees an hour, or unlimited usage for less than Rupees 1000 a month. Modems are reasonably priced now–a–days, and can speed up information retrieval and transfer. Most people use computers as a glorified typewriter, only for word processing. This is rather unfortunate. The real power of the computer is in analysis of data: as a number cruncher. Seemingly innocuous numbers yield significant information when analyzed. The findings from such analysis must be put in the main text. Then, to reinforce your position, you could also give the data to the readers in a table, so that the readers can judge for themselves. Data tables add authority to your writing. But the point you want to make with the statistics must always be explained to the reader. Readers often skip tables unless they are explained, and sometimes even then. the little book of documentation 90
  • 91. Example. The literacy rate for India, SC/STs and Female literacy are instructive (all in percentage). The 1991 figures exclude the 0—6 age group. Previous years exclude the 0—5 age group. Year Total Gap Female Gap India ST India ST 1961 24.02 08.53 15.49 12.95 03.16 08.79 1971 29.45 11.30 18.15 18.70 06.44 12.26 1981 36.23 16.35 19.88 24.90 08.04 15.86 1991 52.21 29.60 22.61 39.23 18.19 21.04 The minister for education stated in the Rajya Sabha on 5 August 1987 that the dropout rate for adivasi in 1982-83, for classes one to eight was above eighty percent in fourteen states. The 1994 report of the ministry of welfare reports that there are 48 districts in eight states in which female literacy of adivasis is less than 2%. Putting the bland census figures through the computer gives the figures in the ‘gap’ columns. They show that the literacy gap between the adivasi and the rest of the population is actually increasing. Without such an analysis, one would think that the picture is uniformly rosy. Point it out to the reader. the little book of documentation 91
  • 92. Example These are revenue to investment rates for some states. State Revenue Investment Madhya Pradesh 41.15 22.10 Orissa 16.71 05.47 Keralam 161.37 48.60 Karnataka 81.73 32.29 This in itself does not provide much information to the reader. But once we put it through a number cruncher, then it strikes us that the profit from investment in forests is about 200%! Explain that to the reader. the little book of documentation 92
  • 93. 17 The writers’ check list Think of the reader · Picture a typical reader. · Be accurate, brief and clear. · Use gender-free language. Capture the reader’s attention, then keep it · Compete for the reader’s attention. · Create a strong title or headline. · Make people want to pick it up from a bookstore shelf. · Use the KISS MII principle. · Keep the reader’s attention at the opening. · Show how your subject affects people and, if possible, the reader. · Appeal to the reader’s interests: health, knowledge, wealth and curiosity. · Show the benefit to the reader. · Use illustrations. ° Have a single message. ° Have a clear message. ° Give solid information. ° Create emotion. ° Be technically good. · Quote directly from people. · Use examples. the little book of documentation 93
  • 94. · Never relax in the competition for the reader. Make reading easier for the reader · Build a smooth, straight highway of information. · Put up guideposts. Use sub headings. · Use lists. · Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Use about 20 words a sentence. Make sure the reader will understand what you are saying · Assume that readers may not know what you are talking about. · Add details to make sure the readers understand. · Use words the reader can understand. · Define words the readers may not know. · Avoid loading your text with abbreviations and initials. If you cannot avoid them, then explain those you use. · Avoid footnotes. Build references into the text if you must. · Explain statistics. Write clearly and simply · Be specific, not general, definite, not vague; concrete, not abstract. · Remove unnecessary words. · Look for short, simple words. the little book of documentation 94
  • 95. · Try to use the readers’ first language. · Avoid jargon. Make your writing sound the way you talk · Make the words work for you. · Make verbs do the work. ° Focuses on people, not the function or the process. ° Use the first person rather then the third. · Use active verbs. · Break up strings of nouns. ° Watch for words ending in ‘-tion’ and ‘-ize’. Use the root verb or noun. ° Make relationships clear. Check and recheck · Headings and subheads. ° Create a strong title or headline. Titles, sub–heads and captions must be catchy. ° Captions should be short. Don’t explain the obvious. ° All tables, illustrations and graphs should have a caption. If not they should be numbered and explained in the text. ° Since these are the parts of the document that are done at the end, they are most prone to mistakes. ° Double check the headings, the sub–heads and the captions in the final proof. the little book of documentation 95
  • 96. ° Graphs, figures, photographs, tables and texts should agree. ° Check that all bullets start with a capital and end with a full–stop. Be positive and straightforward · Avoid words such as ‘not’ because the reader’s eye tends to skip over smaller words, and the negatives. Use them as the first word of the sentence if you must. Evaluate what you are doing · Survey readers. · Value feedback. Rules are made for breaking... A beginner has to follow all the rules. Once the basics are learnt, then one rebels against all rules. Then the mature writer knows when to follow the rules and when to go beyond them. Rules are meant to help, not restrict. Here are a few rules for the adept from the internet. · Always avoid alliteration. · Prepositions are not meant to end your sentences with. · Avoid cliches like the plague. · Don’t use abbreviations etc. · Phrases in parenthesis [however relevant] are unnecessary. · Never generalize. the little book of documentation 96
  • 97. · Follow Ralph Waldo Emerson’s rule: ‘Don’t quote. Tell me what you know’. · Don’t use more words than needed. It is usually superfluous. · Be more or less specific. But if you can’t then it may be, in certain cases, OK to use a few. It depends actually. · Don’t use no double negatives. · Best use understatement. Exaggeration is a million times worse than understatements. · The passive voice is to be avoided. · The mixed metaphor might sparkle, but don’t go overboard with it. · Why use rhetorical questions? · If you don’t know what you want to say then confuse the reader. Write on the presumption that she has an aperture in her cranium or that your writing will have the same effect. · Write long sentences [a long sentence has more than 30 words, usually of more than two syllables] that go on and on so that the reader will probably, not always but usually, forget what she has read in the beginning by the time she comes to the end of the sentence and even if she does not there is a fair chance that she will probably, though not always, but frequently enough, be unsure, if not totally confused about what you want to say. But don’t say it. the little book of documentation 97
  • 98. 18 Public domain writing The remaining part of this book is devoted to getting your work into the public domain. The reason is simple. Success for a salesperson is when the sale is closed, and the money is paid. For an author too, that is important. Assuming that your writing is good, then it must be read for it to have any value and be put into use. Success only comes when both these conditions are fulfilled: · Your writing is read, and · You are paid fairly for it. Public domain writing includes all your writing that will be available to the public. The most common types are works that you send to publishers, newspapers and magazines. At first you are more likely to get your work returned. Do not be dejected if you get your manuscripts or articles back with a form ‘reject’ letter. The editor does not really regret it. It just means that your writing does not fall in with their policy or area of specialization. If he does regret not publishing all the works that he does not publish, then he will end up in a mental asylum with a severe case of depression. It is not a the little book of documentation 98
  • 99. reflection on the quality of your work. This is also true of work that is accepted—and that is a sobering thought. Acceptance or rejection of a work is dictated more by market considerations. If yours is an anti-establishment or critical work, then its publication is dictated by where the particular publisher stands in the political spectrum. Sharp, pointed analysis and critiques stand a better chance in being published in specialist journals and specialist publishing houses. Just as you send in your first work for publication, open two files. One to keep cuttings of any of your articles that get published, and another to file the rejection slips. Initially the second will get filled up faster, but later on you might have to open it just about 10 to 20% of the time compared to the other file. You can re–submit the rejects to other papers after you become famous. Always enclose a stamped self-addressed envelop if you want your article back. Some editors don’t return articles if you do not enclose one with adequate postage—and sometimes not even then. The Bangalore based Deccan Herald is an exception. If they do not accept your article, you get it back within a week—postage or not. the little book of documentation 99
  • 100. Acceptance is also indicated by a postcard—we got one within three days in Chennai though they were on strike. It is best that you keep a copy though. Forget about getting your article back. You should be aware of the political slant of the publication you are approaching, and be sensitive to the concerns of their readers. That does not mean one does not take a stand. If you feel strongly enough about something, you should. Courageous writers are important. But be aware that writing can be hazardous to your health—as Salman Rushdie and others have found out. Check and recheck your facts. Your writing can be judged on facts even centuries afterwards. It is a common saying that doctor’s kill their mistakes, the judges hang their mistakes and writers—oh! the writers—they publish their mistakes in banner headlines! Newspapers and magazines ‘Journalism is literature inthat is easiest to get This is actually one place a hurry ’ your work published. Newspapers need good written work every day. That is a sort of demand that is difficult to fulfil. Newspapers are therefore constantly on the lookout for good writers and interesting topics. the little book of documentation 100
  • 101. If you are serious about a career in writing for newspapers, you should keep a file of all your published articles. Except for the letters to the editor column, editors like to know something about your background the first time you send them an article. It should be a brief write-up, of about a page. If it is the first time you are writing for a particular newspaper, then send them copies of other published articles. The copies should include the name of the publication and the date. You cannot give the same article to more than one publication. Your article will generally be published or acknowledged in two weeks. If not, you can give it in to another paper or magazine. A newspaper generally accepts letters to the editor, ‘oped articles’, ‘middles’, and ‘columns’. Of these, the easiest to contribute to is to the letters to the editor. Other openings The article opposite to the editorial is called the ‘oped’. It is also called the opinionated page... for obvious reasons. It is easily the most prestigious column in a newspaper for outsiders. Within the staff, it is the signed front page editorial. Once your perception and your stand has been acknowledged, your writings are put the little book of documentation 101
  • 102. here. These articles are often commissioned, though unofficially. Just below this comes the ‘middle’. This is usually a humorous article, to give some relief in an otherwise heavy editorial page. The selection for this column is very subjective. If you can tickle the funny bone of the editor, the article is put in. It does not matter if your middle was printed the previous day also. Check the newspaper, since some newspapers do not publish humorous pieces. Columns are regular articles, sometimes by a group of people, sometimes by an individual. For this you should contact the editor, preferably with a collection of your published articles and other credentials. How often, on what subjects, the length and how much will be paid should all be discussed and finalized. Some papers have occasional columns. This will suit you if you free-lance. You can send in your article, and if the editor likes it—no matter what the subject is—then it will be published. Letters to the editor This is the easiest column to get your writing published, and read. Its main drawback is that the little book of documentation 102
  • 103. you do not get paid for it. The advantage is that you can send the same letter to all the newspapers. Preference is given to exclusive letters. Keep your letter short. 200 to 300 words is preferable, and 500 words at the outside. Double spaced letters typed or printed on one side of the paper are preferred. Address the editor as ‘Sir’, not ‘Dear Sir’. It is good practice to include your phone number, fax and your e-mail account. Keep the address as precise as possible. Include your PIN code. You must sign your letters. If the view you express can lead to threat to your life or liberty, request anonymity. If the editor is satisfied that such a threat exists, your letter will be published and marked ‘name withheld on request’. Else your letter will not be published. Syndicates and features These are a sort of collection centre and clearing house for articles. You send your articles to these companies and they will send them to newspapers and magazines. You are paid according to their policy. It could be based on how many publications have used your article, or they might deduct just service charges and pass on the payments to you. Normally it is the former. the little book of documentation 103
  • 104. The advantage is that you need not keep checking out when and where your articles have been published. Syndicates also have their commitments—they have to give an article on environment to a newspaper every week, one political commentary to a fortnightly, and so on—so they are on the look out for writers. For the writers, they are freed from the marketing aspect so they can concentrate on their creative work. This is a typical win–win situation. For good writers, the association with a syndicate is an almost surefire way of an assured and regular income. Articles in magazines Articles in news magazines follow the same rules as newspapers. If you are writing news analysis, you have to give extra information and more background material. More space is available in popular magazines. If you have a flair for writing short stories, this is the place for you. A good cook, style, fashion, homemaking... all have either special magazines or columns in magazines. The important thing for an aspiring writer is that most need good articles, so go ahead and send them your work. Poets are not so well placed in India, as far as paying propositions go. Scientific and other the little book of documentation 104
  • 105. technical journals are aplenty, but if you have the choice, get your papers printed in foreign journals, preferably British or American. In some specialities, being published in German magazines is considered best. Now-a-days, Japanese journals are beginning to acquire some snob value. Even Indians do not respect contributions to Indian journals. The irony is that some of the editors of these journals are Indian. Writing on social themes has its own set of openings that are specialist publications, though most newspapers also give space. Manushi, Humanscape, Anubhav, Labor File, Lokayan Bulletin, Mainstream, and The Economic and Political Weekly are some of the better known magazines for social development. In addition to all this, most NGOs and donor agencies have their in–house publications. Go ahead and contact them. Books Every man has a book inside him; ‘ fortunately, not every man writes it. Writing a book is not as difficult a task as it ’ seems at first. It should be something you write in a style you are comfortable with. Are you a person who expresses yourself briefly? Then do the same for your book. Are you witty, the little book of documentation 105
  • 106. sarcastic, cynical? Are you fascinated by facts and details? Are you interested in the human side of every story? The book should be an extension of your true personality—maybe your hidden one, the one that only you know. Only then will it ring true. Write it as you normally work. How do you finish an important task? By getting all your energies focused on it, planning and preparing the task, getting the material ready and then doing it at one go? Then that is how your book should be done. If your preferred working style is to breakup a job into small manageable bits and tackle one part at a time, then you could write an outline of the book you want to write, break it up into chapters and sub-topics, and then set to work on it at your own pace. Going over your writing over a decade or so, you will be amazed at the consistency of the basic framework, at the same time fascinated by the slowly maturing and evolving position. At this time, you should seriously consider bringing out a collection of writings, but with a heavy dose of editing to make it a logical unit. All the rules of writing apply with even more rigour while writing a book. A book is much more permanent, and involves more resources. So the little book of documentation 106
  • 107. take care. Get a precise person in mind. The publication of a book is team work. As a writer you must be willing to give up total control. Printing a book is easy for anyone with a little bit of money. Publication involves much more than just printing. First prepare a synopsis, with a clear idea of the purpose of the book. Have an idea of the type of person likely to read the book. How long should the book be? Next write a chapter on the book. What are you going to tell the reader in the book? What are the key ideas? What is the structure of the book? Which chapter tells what? Where can the reader find the key ideas and issues? This will be a guide for the reader later. First it will be a guide to write the book. If the final work turns out to be a little different from the first draft, you can always redo the introductory chapter. But it is an useful guide when starting and helps focus. Assistance of a professional editor will be profitable. Trust the professional’s advice. They often have a better sense of what will be acceptable to the reader, and current taste. If they advise reworking or scrapping entire chapters or even the whole work, do it. It will be difficult, the little book of documentation 107
  • 108. especially if it is the first time—almost like killing your baby. However, if you are writing for a specialist audience, you will probably know more about them than the professional. Professional editors and publishing executives tend to become conservative and less prone to risk taking after a while. Above all, trust your own instinct. Professionals are sometimes wrong. the little book of documentation 108
  • 109. 19 Publishing There is a special place in hell for ‘ publishers ’ Should you publish? NGOs often prefer to print and distribute their own documents. But it may be useful to see if the work might get better impact and reach a wider audience if it is published by someone else. The advantages are · It gets into the bibliographic information. · It would be put into the book depositories. · Reach a wider audience. NGOs with a small publication programme have a relatively small reach. If your material is of global value [and all writers like to think so!] then it is best to get someone with a wider reach. Moreover, credibility is also enhanced when the author and publisher are different. What not to publish Not all documents need be published. All documentation carries a cost, and making more copies of it even more. Each paper has a certain environmental cost. the little book of documentation 109
  • 110. NGOs tend to print many documents that they think will be interesting to many people. But the normal NGO reach is only about 200 copies—even when these copies are given away. Even professional NGO information providers rarely cross a thousand. Annual, workshop or seminar reports need not be published. As more Indian NGOs move on to local fund raising, publishing case studies will be better. An annual report for the local donor base will be very different from one for the foreign institutional ones. Keep the reader in mind always. Are we going to add to the ‘junk mail’ or add to the knowledge base? The publishing process Once you decide to get your work published, the most important thing to remember is that till now you have put all your ideas in writing. From now on, put all the agreements in writing. It saves much heart burn later on. A good agreement means that you have started a good working relationship. Before submitting your manuscript to an editor, get a friend with some expertise in the subject to read it and make comments. Agree to changes in style, but not to changes in content. Every change must be an improvement. the little book of documentation 110
  • 111. Then take your manuscript to a publisher. The publisher normally has someone to check out if the book is worth investing his money in. If so, they will accept it for publication. If not, do not worry. Try another place. Many publishers will guide you to another who might be more interested in the particular subject. It becomes slightly easier if you write study guides, text books, and children’s stories, because they have a ready market, and demand for good books in this category frequently outstrips supply. Text books are usually commissioned, so your publisher actually comes to you, a rather welcome change. Unless you are a rather well known writer—in which case you wouldn’t be reading this—and sometimes even then, expect quite a few rejection slips. If you get past this hurdle, then other details will have to be worked out. The first is the copyright. According to the Indian Copyright Protection Act, the author has the copyright for the whole of her life plus sixty years. Next decide on the number of copies to be printed. The minimum print run is 1000 copies, and NGO publishers usually have a run of 5000. the little book of documentation 111
  • 112. Royalty Sir, no man but a blockhead ever wrote but for money. — Samuel Johnson Normally you are paid a sum as advance against future royalties. This depends on the type of work, and the number of copies that you and the publisher think will be sold. This will be paid immediately. The royalty ranges from 5 to 30% of the cover price, and depends on the type of publication, the popularity of the subject, and number of books sold. Royalty payments are settled every six months. Despite the media hype surrounding the multi–million deals of certain Indian writers, as a new writer, you should not expect more than the minimum—while of course trying to get the best possible deal. If you are publishing through an NGO or a ‘cause’ related organization, then you may be expected to agree to no royalty at all. In such cases, the each author is given 25 complimentary copies for non–commercial use. If you do get a royalty, you then get 5 copies of the book. Most publishers also give a 50% discount on all the titles in their catalogue when the author buys them for personal use, as long as the author’s book is in print. the little book of documentation 112
  • 113. In every case, even if you agree to no royalty, have all the agreements explicitly and in writing. Under all circumstances, you should assert your right to be identified as the author of the work. It is good practice and good ethics. One should take the responsibility and the credit when due. If you do go to a professional publisher, then you should insist that you retain the rights. The fair royalty is about 10% of the cover price. Let us assume a cover price of Rupees 100.00. A publisher, when agreeing to take your book on, usually has in mind a sales of at least 1000 copies in the first year, and usually feels that sales of 2000 will be possible. If not they rarely take on your book. So the money you get at the time of signing the deal should be 10%. The fair deal in this case is Rupees 10,000.00, and the rest on sale. If there is a second edition, with a print run of 2000 copies, you should again get Rupees 20,000.00. Remember, these are the absolute minimums and only for the Indian rights. If you do not get even this much, then you could perhaps pause to consider whether you have got a fair deal. If you are promised less, you can confidently walk off, assured that you can get the little book of documentation 113
  • 114. more readership—and money—if you publish and distribute the work yourself. Copy editing Once the terms are agreed upon, the publisher will get one of the firm’s editors to work on it. If you have not already got someone to do it before, it would be a good time to tighten up the language, as per the editor’s suggestions. Suggestions for expanding some ideas that are not too clear, editing out pet phrases—the one’s that you use very often—could be valuable. Only minor corrections and editing to the matter or content are usually suggested. How you react to them depends on how vital you feel they are to the essence of the book. Proofing This is to catch the spelling and other errors. Try not to do it yourself. It is difficult for the same person to catch all the mistakes. Give it to two different people, one after the other, and you are assured of a virtually error-proof, quality, manuscript. Check the headings, sub–heads, and the captions. Check to see if all bullet points start with a capital and end with a full–stop. The proof reader will mark the errors and return the the little book of documentation 114
  • 115. manuscript. These corrections require little intellectual effort, but a lot of time. Give it to a data entry operator if you can. There will never be a 100% error–free book. So don’t fret too much about it. If we count the number of errors in a book and the number of words, then it is well below 0.1%. Even scientific experiments have a larger acceptable margin of error. In this book we have left some errors for you to find out. Design There are many good books. The ones that get read are the ones that have good design for the text and the cover. A good cover gets the book noticed and taken off the shelf. It is the first step to the reader. Good content gets repeat sales. Get a good designer to help. Work closely with her, but let her do her job. Most books are kept on a shelf and read during journeys or in bed. Documents are usually filed and read at a table. Design them accordingly. There is a tendency to make books very big. Do that if it is a reference book. Otherwise a smaller, easy–to–hold–in–bed size is better. All books should have the title on its spine. That helps it be located in a library. If the book is the little book of documentation 115
  • 116. very thin, then print the title vertically on the back cover as close to the centre pin as possible. The back cover of the book should have information on why the book should be bought, and how it will help the buyer. Printing Printing is done in two different stages: pre-press and press. You probably have no control over how the press works, unless you own it. Choose a letter press if your budget is small, though now-a-days computerized layout and offset printing are not as expensive as they once were. They afford much greater flexibility and control. The printing and binding times vary since it depends on how fast the ink and glue dries up, but from the time you give the laser printout to the press to the time you get your copies should not take more than a week, ten days at the outside. Further delay will usually be due to other commitments by your printer. Ask the press for firm date commitments. Ask your printer which paper size the press supports. Do your layout accordingly. This book is printed on Times 11 point, and each page is about A6 size, because it is a little book. A6 is roughly quarter the size of an A4 sheet. Most the little book of documentation 116
  • 117. ‘pocket size’ editions are just a wee bit smaller than A5. In the trade they are called ‘crown size’. Due to the available paper size, crown results in the maximum paper wastage. Ahem! Still wondering what the A4 size is? Go to a stationary shop and find out. We will not insult your intelligence and spoon feed you. Pricing Authors who do the publishing themselves normally under–price their work. The rule of thumb for pricing, assuming a print run of 1000 copies, is divide the print cost by 1000. We get the print cost per copy. Multiply by 7 to get the cover price for paper back, and by 15 for hard cover copies. Normally author–publishers just double the print cost. To get a rough estimate of the cost of production—data entry, page layout, and printing—calculate it at Rupees 200 per A5 page and Rupees 335 per crown page. This includes two proofs, a four colour cover and lamination, if the number of pages is above 200. There could be minor variations, but not by much. This does not include the pre–design proofs. Normally a book needs about five to ten extra proofs. Build that into your costing. the little book of documentation 117
  • 118. In India, specialist publications are heavily subsidized and so shamefully under–prized. Therefore the usual is three to four times the printing cost. This leads to most people under–valuing Indian publications—grumbling about paying Rupees 100.00 for an Indian book while thinking nothing of paying Rupees 1000.00 for a foreign book as a ‘special price’. In dual pricing, the conversion rate usually applied is Rupees 10 to a US Dollar. This enables people from richer countries, where book prices and incomes are generally higher, to pay a higher price. For third world nations, the price is usually equivalent to the current Rupee rate. There are really no price barriers or resistance. The general rule is that there are individual sales when the book is priced at less than Rupees 200. A serious reader would buy it even when it is priced between Rupees 200 and 300. Above that it is normally only institutional sales. For a ‘must have’ book there is no price limit. But the price should be low enough to make the option of xeroxing unattractive. A Rupee a page, or slightly more is the best bet for a popular book. the little book of documentation 118
  • 119. Subsidies Ah! Who wouldn’t like to get some? The Government of India does have some provisions for this. Try it at your risk. You could write to The Director, CIEFL Regional Centre, Motimahal Campus, 2 Rana Pratap Marg, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India—226002. p: 91–522–2216073. f: 91–522–2285771. Each state government provides support for books written in their official language. In addition to this, central ministries give support for books on their special areas of concern. The environment ministry gives grants for books written on the environment, with more than 100 pages, in Hindi. Similarly for others. Legal provisions Legally, a ‘book’ has 50 pages or more. If you do your own publishing remember that, by law, you are required to send complementary copies to four public libraries. i Connemara Public Library, Chennai—600008. ii The National Library, Calcutta—700027. iii The Central Library, Mumbai—400001. iv Delhi Public Library, New Delhi—110006. the little book of documentation 119
  • 120. Keep their acknowledgment cards. They sometimes lose books and ask for another citing legal provisions. Send them a copy of the acknowledgment. Make them buy the next one. Each state has its own central public library. It is good practice to send books to them, since only then can your book be bought by the government purchase department for all the libraries in the state—and that runs to hundreds of copies! So do send them a complementary copy. It not only gets you a larger audience but also better sales. Internationally, copyright is for the life of the author plus fifty years. In India, copyright is for the life of the author plus sixty years. India is an exception for a curious reason. In 1992, fifty years after the death of Rabindranath Tagore, his works would have come into the public domain. However, the trustees of his estate petitioned the government for an extension of copyright, since their major source of income was from the publication and sale of his works. So the government, which could not make an exception, extended copyright protection for another ten years for all literary works. Copyright—literally the right to make copies—legally rests with the author. The the little book of documentation 120
  • 121. copyright is normally bought from the author by the publisher, sometimes for a limited period, usually permanently. Rights to translations vest with the translator, but permission for translation must be got from the original author. Then we get into a legal minefield. What about a stage adaptation? And if the stage adaptation is turned into a musical? and then translated... and filmed? What happens when the characters from the movie are used for another sequel... Even if the copyright of a work is bought, it cannot be mutilated or adapted without the author’s consent. Distortion is prohibited, but only till the copyright exists. Then it reverts to public domain, and no restrictions apply. For violation of copyright, the penalty is six to thirty six months in jail, and Rupees 50,000 to 200,000 in fines. There is an increasing movement towards copylefting. Anyone is free and encouraged to reproduce all copylefted works provided · The reproduced work is not copyrighted. · It is for non–profit use. · The original copyleft notice is also included. the little book of documentation 121
  • 122. It is analogous to freeware in software and information technology. It is a part of the anarchic trend that rebels against exclusion. This book is copylefted. Cataloguing Most publishers are given a cluster of International Standard Book Numbers [ISBN] not from the logical Ministry of Information and Broadcasting known within the trade, as ‘the ministry of ifs and buts’ for their rather pre-historic attitude. The Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, allots these numbers in India. These are unique identifying numbers for the book to reference its title and country of publication. For details of free registration, write on your organization’s letter–head to The librarian—ISBN Division Raja Rammohun Roy National Unit B2/W3 Curzon Road Barracks, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi 110001 t:+91—11—3382549 In your letter state: · The name and full address of the publishing agency[your organization]. · Date of establishment. the little book of documentation 122
  • 123. · Total output of titles to date, and whether you want ISBNs for the backlog. · Expected output of titles in the current year. · Expected output of titles in the next fifteen to twenty years. Library cataloguing follows the ‘Dewey Decimal System’. If you tell any librarian the topic on which your book is based, they will tell you the appropriate number. the little book of documentation 123
  • 124. 20 Publicity and reviews Together with the printing of your book, you will need to print a one page ‘flier’ that gives a brief overview of the book. Send the fliers to all those whom you think will be interested. If your book is for a particular profession, then send the flier to their guild or association. NGOs have their own networks, both nationally and regionally. In addition, there are issue specific networks. Most interest groups—including publishers— are organized today, and have their newsletters. Meet their office bearers. Ask them to mention your work, the price and the contact address in the next issue. If you want reviews for your book, send a copy of it to the newspapers, clearly marking it for review. The Hindu however asks for two copies. Send it to them anyway. They also give the publisher’s address. So more orders come in saving distribution costs. It is good practice to send a small write up. Most newspapers and magazines use these write ups, at least as a starting point, for their reviews. If you can include a small sketch of the person the little book of documentation 124
  • 125. who does the write up—in what way is the person qualified to do the write up—and meet the book review editor personally, there are greater chances of a review. Try to get an address where the book can be obtained from, together with the price mentioned at the end of the review. Don’t be too bothered by reviews, or too elated by them. The purpose of a review is publicity, not evaluation. Sometimes reviews are done by wannabe authors, who try to show off their erudition [or should we write knowledge instead, because it is a simpler word?!] rather than review the book. No one of any consequence buys a book just because it has got a good review. Those who do, buy them for the snob value, not for reading. In the review of one of our books, a former judge of the supreme court of India was so impressed that twice within his review of about 250 words, he said ‘one should read the book’. Another reviewer praised our book for the analysis on NGOs—our book was on the Adivasi [indigenous people] struggle in south India—and then said it was full of ‘pretentious’ phrases. On looking back, we find that both reviews were correct. For the judge, the ‘pretentious’ phrases were simple enough to understand, for the little book of documentation 125
  • 126. the junior reporter it was over his head. We would have to be clear that the reviews we want should be done by the same people who are the target audience—and students and the general reader were our target audience then. These are mistakes we would not have known otherwise. Distribution The advantage of going through an established publisher or a commercial distributor is that they have national and international distribution networks. Some, such as Sage, specialize in development and social science literature. The Other India Book Store is the most well known NGO distributor. They are a part of the Third World Network. There are many bookstores that stock development publications. Only a few have any real contact with the NGO world and use its journals and networks to promote their book. One thing that you as an author could do is suggest channels for publicizing the book. If you are a specialist in some field and your book is on that specialty, it is likely that you are already recognized as an expert. In that case you will be called to give speeches, present papers at seminars or help develop policy. Take your books along, and tell the audience that they can the little book of documentation 126
  • 127. purchase them after your talk. You should be able to sell at least ten books in an audience of 30. Once you get over your shyness, 25 books will be common if the book is interesting and the audience excited. In one of the meetings we went to, the resource person Michael Norton gave an interesting example of how to sell. Taking off from the workshop on newsletter publication that he had just conducted, he asked if anyone was interested in getting a ‘Do It Yourself Guide to Newsletter Publication’. He would import it and make it available for Rupees 350. Almost everyone raised their hands. He then explained the strategy: · Create interest. · Be someone people can trust. · Then price is not the barrier. If you are an author–on a specific subject, you could do the same where you are a speaker. Other easy points of distribution are libraries, though they are currently facing a budget crunch. For this you will need to contact the book selection committee. They, as all government departments, demand a 10% discount off the cover price. You can ask them to cover packing and postage—which comes to roughly the same the little book of documentation 127
  • 128. amount. Recently the trend is to ask up to 50% off as discount, in which case sell them only hard bound copies with the price hiked up appropriately. Getting money from government departments —famed for their lethargy—is quite easy. Give them a discount of about Rupees 50.00 if they pay within two weeks. They will. It has never failed for us. This is because their auditors will take them to task for losing the government’s money. And, like everyone else, they fear the auditor. Isn’t it nice to know? Another method, though more expensive, is to send books by VPP. This can be done only for confirmed orders. Parcels have to be taken to the post office. Money is brought back by the postman. Professional distribution networks are a good try, but they normally specialize. Find out one that normally distributes books on the subjects that interest you. Ask your bookstore for other bookstores which stock books on the subject that you have written on. Meet them, they normally are quite helpful. Retailers take three to five books, initially, and then more depending on sales. Distributors take a minimum of ten, but usually fifty. the little book of documentation 128
  • 129. If you go to a distributor, the normal trade discount is 40% off the cover price. For retailers, it is one third. Sometimes they will agree to take your book on a ‘sale–or–return’ basis. This means that they will sell the books and settle every six months. If sales are good, they will get back to you earlier. In this case the discount is 25%. If you sell directly, you may give a discount of 10% as a ‘special offer’. Direct sale discount should not at anytime be more than 15%, since that will lead to problems for, and with, your retailers. The distributors and retailers will settle accounts half yearly. Another gold mine of information—but one seldom tapped—are the secondhand book dealers. There is an unusually high percentage of book lovers among them, and they are quite knowledgeable. They are very helpful to both book lovers and authors—specially hard-up, upcoming ones! the little book of documentation 129
  • 130. 21 Unsold publications Unsold publications take up space, become less relevant, and deteriorate. Even so, never, ever ‘remainder’—sell at junk value—the books. They can be put to better use. The marketing cycle should be: · Year 1: Market and hope to sell the rest in three years. · Year 2: Continue, and focus on those that are doing well. · Year 3: Identify the problem books. Get them out. Somehow. Anyhow. To decide to classify the book as ‘unsold’ check how many copies you have. Divide that figure by the number that were sold the last year. This will give the number of years that the book will have to be stored before it is sold out. If it is greater than three or four, a discussion with the senior team may be in order. Decide whether · The book was a mistake. · Out of date. · One that you are not proud of. In all these cases send the unsold copies for recycling. Don’t waste storage space on them. If the little book of documentation 130
  • 131. not, then these books could be used for promotional activity. · Be sold at a discount as a promotional offer at a special sale. · Inducement for new subscribers [for a newsletter or a book club]. · Bundled with another book at a special price to get them both out! · Give them to networks to develop partnerships. · Use them to promote the organization. After this what? If you are an author who has done all this, savour the triumph by all means. Remember that a mild depression is normal after publication of a book. Immediately get on to your next work. You are only as famous as your last book in the last year. If you are a publisher, get on with it. Identify new talent. The more books you publish, the better your chances of picking a winner. the little book of documentation 131
  • 132. 22 Responsibility Education has three ‘R’s. The ‘R’ in writing stands for the great social responsibility writers and the intelligentsia have—the duty to highlight the best in human nature, and to be on the side of the oppressed. Therefore, the human being and human well-being should be at the centre of the documentation effort. Though on the side of the oppressed, even while developing an ideology for liberation, the writers, development workers and all those who form the intelligentsia should at no time give in to hate, communalism, incitement to racial or other violence or other negative human traits, but should always emphasize love, harmony and tolerance. The outlook should be positive, creating a win–win, inclusive, enabling ideology. If we do not use our gift for that, it is a betrayal of trust. Life is too short even to love adequately. There is no need to waste time on hate. We do not need to create hell in this world to go to heaven in the next. The patterns of life can be written from many angles all seemingly true. That people are good or bad till circumstances force them otherwise, the little book of documentation 132
  • 133. that the chief motivation of life is the life instinct, the death wish, the sex instinct, the lust for power, personal ambition, will... But while creating patterns, one has to be conscious of the responsibility of the development worker and the intelligentsia. The patterns created will be used by people to justify many different actions. The history of India can be written from the point of ‘Hindus’ fighting against ‘Christians’ or ‘Moslems;’ or of ‘Dravidians’ versus ‘Aryans;’ or ‘Dalits’ versus ‘Brahmins’ ... There is such a large corpus of material available that virtually any of these, and many more besides, can be convincingly argued. Modern politics is divisive, and the competition seems to be to what basest instinct the politician can appeal to. The task before us is to heal, while at the same time change the unjust status quo. Human history is the evolving search for a better human life, love and justice. It is easy to destroy. The pen should be used for more constructive purposes. As Boris Yelstin said: it is easy to build a throne of bayonets, but you can’t sit on it for long. In this example, we show how such a positive pattern can be created. the little book of documentation 133
  • 134. Gandhism—Bombed out of existence? Gandhism has been pronounced dead many times before. An authority on ‘Gandhism’ has even concluded in an otherwise well researched book that Gandhism ceased to matter in Indian politics since 1942. In global relationships, the invention of the weapons that could kill from a distance was said to make Gandhism outmoded as an ideology and an expression of the highest forms of philosophy. Atom bombs became the symbol. That dates from 1945. Non cooperation could no longer bring moral pressure to bear on the oppressor. Impersonal means, such as a soldier sitting in an air conditioned room far away from the scene, reading a comic pressing a button could destroy the world. The nuclear explosions of May 1998, are said to have well and truly buried Gandhism once and for all—both in global polity, and in the place of his birth. The truth, as always, is not so simple. Gandhism, came into global consciousness since it was used against the contemporary global super-power. However, its subaltern stream can be traced back authoritatively for millennia, and can be safely asserted to be still evolving. A hundred and thirty years since his birth, it might be appropriate to trace Gandhism by its various names and the other ‘mahatmas’ who gave, and continue to give, shape to this evolving ideology. To trace Gandhism before the birth of Gandhi could seem to be impossible. But here let us take refuge in Robert Barnabas Brough’s poem, ‘An early Christian’. Christians were on earth ere Christ was born Thousands of years ago men dared to die the little book of documentation 134
  • 135. Loving their enemies—and wondering why. Gandhism, in this note, similarly refers to a developing stream of human ethical consciousness—for a good Gandhian is a good Hindu is a good Christian is a good Moslem.... is good. Human progress must be traced not by our potential to kill, but rather by our potential to love, and to justice. Philosophers and great law makers—while making concessions for contemporary circumstances—have tried to guide the human race in that direction. It is a different matter that followers have had very many difficulties in following their philosopher-teachers. The famous dictum ‘an eye for an eye..’. is, arguably, the first progressive legislation in this regard. More than an admonition to revenge, it was a limitation. Rightly interpreted, it restrains anyone from excessive retribution. It sought to restrain the powerful from going on rampage for real or imagined hurt. Even by the first century B. C. there was considerable progress. The Jewish philosopher Hillel propounded ‘do not do unto others what you do not want them to do unto you’. The undatable, but probably earlier, Santiparva of Mahabharata says Do not do unto others what, if done to you, would hurt; This is morality in a nutshell; for the rest, do what you like. Closely related to this, almost word for word, is Jesus’ Do unto others what you would like them to do unto you. and developing it to the little book of documentation 135
  • 136. Love thy neighbour as thyself, ...that is the law and the prophets. Jesus went on to develop this even further when he asked his followers to ‘love your enemies’. That is a quantum leap in philosophical terms. About seven centuries later, the Koran says [Chapter 41, Verse 34] Repel [evil] with that is better; Then, will be, between whom and you, was hatred, become, as it were, your intimate friend. The success of Gandhi is that he put this into practice, clearly separating the ‘sin and the sinner’. Gandhi is a mahatma, great soul, because he insisted that the British should leave as friends, and planned all his campaigns so—despite all that the British did. The core contribution of the philosophical position of Gandhism is not non-cooperation with an unjust government—which was a contribution of Thoreau, as acknowledged by Gandhi himself—but that ‘the British should leave as friends’. This practice of confronting the sin, while loving the sinner and enabling the adversary to also have positive feelings is the singular contribution of Gandhi. This means that not only does one have to love one’s enemy, but so act that the ‘enemy’ actually loves us! This seems to be a difficult philosophical position to develop on, but develop it has. Gandhi’s death has not stopped the development of human ethics nor its practice. There are of course many adherents of the message who live it out in their daily lives. It influenced Nelson Mandela. Martin Luther King even wore the Gandhi cap. Israel is arguably one of the the little book of documentation 136
  • 137. most militaristic states. Even it has deported those who protested by non-violent means, by going on a hunger strike, proving once again that moral power is stronger than that of guns. Teachers routinely exhort us to love each other in spite of our very many faults. One of the definitions of a friend is ‘one who will stand by you when you are wrong—because when you are right others will. The peace movement during the cold war affirmed the message by declaring that ‘all the arms in the world do not give the security of one embrace’. But progress, in ideological terms, can be seen right here in India. In a little known village Kanjipadam in Keralam there is a bold experiment that, among other things, tries to ‘love one another because of their faults!’ Not in spite of but because. The moving soul behind this is a [now] retired school teacher Pankajaksha Kurup. The ‘experiment’ involves about 3000 families in a panchayat ‘ward’. It includes a non-monetary economy, and community property in its embryonic form. Daily meetings of groups of 10 families and weekly and monthly meetings of progressively larger groups is the norm. Though the press in Keralam has hailed it as a place where ‘love has bloomed’ the philosopher himself declares that they are all still as ‘bad’ and as ‘full of faults’ as before. Interestingly, it is true. The community does have its fair share of ‘undesirables’. In one of their meetings, there was a complaint that one among them stole something. The response is interesting. Kurup pointed out that it was a good thing the little book of documentation 137
  • 138. to happen, because they finally noticed the person. The community, he explained, did not notice him when he was lying drunk in the cow shed. Nor did they even know that he was drunk because he could not raise money for his sisters’ weddings. So his stealing was good in that it gave an opportunity for them to envelop him with their love. Quite a living ideology that! As long as the human race seeks to rise above itself, the progression of ethical philosophical frontiers will continue. It is when ordinary people, despite all the counter-pressures, collectively do extra-ordinary things that the race as a whole progresses. It is those who live it in their daily life who are the real custodians of the cutting edge of ethical standards of the race. The simple truth is that the elite came to know of ‘Gandhian ethics’ only for a time, and adopted it as a fashion and a fetish. After that it reverted back into the lives of its true custodians. It is in them that the strong, but perhaps less visible, stream of ‘Gandhism’ flows on. And it always will. It is easy to destroy the oppressing ideology by hate. But then it is only replacing one anti–people ideology and system with another. To create a better world, it must be done only through love. To reiterate: life is too short even to love adequately. There is no need to waste time for anything else. the little book of documentation 138
  • 139. 23 End note Did you enjoy flipping through to find this page? The reader normally does not like to keep flipping to the back of the book looking for the footnotes, explanatory or otherwise. Our endeavor should be to make the task of discovering new ideas as easy as possible for the reader. Bye! the little book of documentation 139
  • 140. Other books we wrote Institution Development A human rights approach to development p205, Rs 175, 2004 Karnataka resource book p250, Rs 100, 2002 Life goes on...[Building sustainable communities and institutions] p320, Rs 240, 1999 NGO experience Grama Vidiyal, A bank to bank on p250, unpriced, 2004 The heart of a city p250, unpriced, 2002 Sustaining Dalit empowerment p060, Rs 120, 2001 An earth to inherit p108, Rs 120, 1999 Paths are made by walking p107, Rs 100, 1998 The NESA process p060, Rs 100, 1998 Partners in progress p206, Rs 120, 1997 Experiences of advocacy in environment and development p208, Rs 120, 1997 Tribals A search for justice p300, Rs 500, 1997 Why does Nagarhole burn p060, Rs 060, 1995 Indigenous identity p090, Rs 030, 1993 Tribals in our global village p150, Rs 095, 1992 Others Peoples Voices: 25 Experiences of globalisation in Asia p100, unpriced, 2003 Liberating mindspace: In which language do you think? p065, unpriced, 2001 ~
  • 141. Goodbookz 125/1, cross 15, main 5, rt nagar block 2, bangalore, India 560032 p: 91(0) 94-4848-4797 e: goodbookz@yahoo.co.uk ~

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