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Owning Your Communications

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While working in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2007, I had problems with staff seeing the point of reporting. They thought it was something I needed; they didn\'t see it as something that was important to …

While working in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2007, I had problems with staff seeing the point of reporting. They thought it was something I needed; they didn\'t see it as something that was important to them. A colleague and I put together this presentation to help staff see how reporting benefits them -- their reputation at the organization, their career goals, even their likelihood at being considered for promotions. We made the presentation as interactive as possible. This presentation works best in small groups -- 15 people or less. Although focused on Afghanistan and UNDP-supported projects, this could easily be adapted to other situations. This presentation was part of an overall internal campaign we conducted to raise the quality of reporting from staff.

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  • This presentation was prepared by Gunda Wiegmann and Jayne Cravens of the National Area-Based Development Programme, which supports the Afghanistan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and is administered by the United Nations Development Programme. You are free to adapt it as you like.


  • 1. Improving Communications Help for you to OWN your communications
  • 2. Communications: it’s not just for “the boss”
    • Reporting is often seen as an expression of hierarchy
    • (“you must give me this information”) instead of
    • sharing information for learning .
  • 3. Communications Serves YOU
    • Communications should make you energized and confident about the importance and impact of your work.
    • Communications should inform AND inspire
    • Ask yourself: what do you want to happen as a result of your message in a report or a meeting?
  • 4.
    • You have project objectives?
    • Then you also have
    • COMMUNICATIONS objectives.
  • 5. Use What You Already Have/Do
    • You can use things you have written to others in your formal reports later:
      • Save all emails you send
      • Take notes whenever you are on the phone
      • Take your own notes in meetings
  • 6. How to Write a GREAT Report
    • Practical tips to improve your written communications
    • (please see the handout as well)
  • 7. For What Audiences are We Writing?
    • Donor community
    • UNDP
    • Ministry
    • Afghan public
    • Different audiences have different needs!
  • 8. Formats:
    • general theme: result-based reporting (what was achieved)
    • follow the format, divide your inputs into usually activities, achievements, challenges, etc.
    • Try to fill in all the categories:
      • Risks (you cannot directly influence) can be: weather conditions, the security situation etc.
      • Issues (you can change through diff. programming): understaffing, lack of funding etc. , every projects encounters these
    • explain things as if you were explaining what you are doing to a friend. Processes have to be explained in more detail to donors than they have to be to the Dep. Minister.
  • 9. Refer to Your Work Plan:
    • Ask yourself: How does this activity or result tie to my unit’s work plan?
    • Why was an activity proposed, but not implemented? What were the challenges?
  • 10. Three KEY questions:
    • What period are we reporting on?
      • what report is your input for (monthly? quarterly?...)
      • Indicate this in the text and file name
    • What difference are you as part of NABDP making?
    • What is working and what is not working?
    • How were challenges addressed? These can often be turned into good lessons learnt.
  • 11. Follow-up from report-to-report:
    • Follow-up on what you wrote in the previous report: if you said that you were going to provide a training, then describe what happened to that idea in the next report
    • For this purpose, please, also keep a copy of your inputs that you have sent to the Communications unit
  • 12. Informal Observations
    • Informal observations are very welcome
      • The Kuchi man changing his mind
      • Convincing men to involve their women
    • Come to tell us, if you think you have a good story to tell
    • If you are keeping a journal, share relevant parts with us
  • 13. Meetings & Trainings
    • If you mention that you attended meetings or that you conducted trainings, please, mention the following:
      • Why was the meeting/ training important? – reasons & results , who participated
      • Did it work out the way you had planned it?
      • What is going to be different now that the meeting took place/ the training was conducted?
  • 14. Provision for Inputs
    • The unit should inform Gunda/Fariba about who (1 person per unit) will provide an input for a report, so that Gunda/Fariba knows with whom to follow-up. Also, please inform this designee about his or her responsibilities!
    • In case if your absence, please, inform Gunda/ Fariba before you leave regarding who will provide the input instead of you. Also, please inform this designee about his or her responsibilities!
  • 15. Deadlines
    • Deadlines are real
    • Many deadlines are regular (so please budget time for them)
    • Deadlines are set by MRRD, donors and UNDP, not the communications unit
  • 16. We’re Here to Help
    • Invite a member of the communications unit to sit in on your unit meetings and de-briefings; we will take notes to use in your monthly reports
    • Set a time for one of us to interview you about your training, workshop, project, etc.); you can speak and our team member will take notes and produce a written report for you to review
    • Bring us your rough information and ask how you can improve the information
    • Use our tools (“How to Write a Report”, “Questions to ask yourself as you write”)
  • 17. Photos are a Part of Reporting
  • 18. Why Take Photos?
    • Proof of work being done
    • To show progress
    • To show PEOPLE (it’s nice to see instead of just read)
    • Other reasons?
  • 19. TAKE PHOTOS!!
    • Be respectful; ask for permission; notify the group that photos will be taken and how they will be used.
    • Take LOTS of photos. Take several photos of the same scene, from the same angle and different angles.
    • Outside shots are best (because of light), but take pictures away from the sun, if possible.
    • When inside, get close to the subject, and try to aim away (instead of into) light sources.
    • Get FACES and ACTION when possible.
    • Get C O L O R when possible.
    • Show local people talking, teaching, learning, working, etc.
    • As much as local culture and circumstances allow, get photos of women.
    • It’s okay to arrange people for a photo (e.g. asking people to stand in a certain place).
    • Remember that photos will serve many needs (donors, government, internal use, etc.).
  • 20. For Indoor Photos
    • Get CLOSE to the main subject(s), and try to aim away (instead of into) light sources.
    • Get FACES, with EXPRESSION if possible.
    • Ask signers of an agreement to pose together (stand close together with the agreement, have them shake hands and face the camera, etc.) after signing for a photo.
  • 21. Share Your Info!!
    • Share written and verbal info with your unit supervisor and the Communications office (Gunda, Jayne, & Fariba)
    • If only in Dari, that’s okay – share the input with Fariba!
    • Invite us to your debriefings!
    • Come visit our office or invite us to yours!
    • We’re here to help!
  • 22. Thank you for your attention!