Jump to content

Learning patterns/Short reports go a long way

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Short reports go a long way
problemIt can be hard to write a good report on complex projects in which multiple people are responsible for individual activities.
solutionAsk individual participants beforehand to collect the relevant information during an activity, or shortly after it ends; Contact them shortly after their activity is finished to encourage them to give you the information; Compose reflections upon these combined reports, and share the final version with the participants who helped.
created on10 October, 2013

The problem


Writing reports can be difficult for complex projects, because many different actors are sometimes needed to carry out many different activities. At the same time, volunteer organizers are often responsible for creating a detailed, comprehensive, and reflective report at the end of a project.

In some cases, the report is written well after some of the activities have concluded. It might be very difficult for the volunteer organizers to extract information from the different people involved with the project at its different stages; but without detailed information about activities and outcomes, a good report on a complex project might be difficult or impossible to create.

As a result, we could lack important information about a significant project if this information is missing and can't be recovered because key individuals are not available at the time the report is submitted, or because those who are available have to remember details from some time ago.

One solution


Reporting is a big task; you may need to bring together many elements to write a successful report. This solution addresses only one often-problematic element of reporting on a complex project. While individual volunteers involved with only some project activities may not be able or want to prepare a large detailed report on a complex project, most can write simple reports on the activities they're responsible for, especially if these simple reports are requested at the time activities are being conducted or soon after their completion. If individuals know beforehand that they'll be asked to record their activities and some outcomes, most will be willing and able to provide this information to the organizers. These small reports may form the basis of the final report on the entire project.

The details and observations contained here form the basis for more complicated sections of the report that address metrics for the entire project, and reflections around lessons learned.



General considerations

  • This doesn't apply to all types of projects – only complex projects in which certain activities are conducted by individual volunteers.
  • Individual small reports only provide some details about activities and outcomes. It's still be up to those composing the final report to collate these activities and ideas and to produce good reflections that describe the project as a whole.
  • Be sure to let individuals know that they'll be asked to write a short report from the beginning of a project, so that this expectation is very clear from the start.
  • Let your individual volunteers know what kind of information is needed or helpful.
  • When your volunteers do a good job with this, congratulate them and mention their good work in your final report!


  • Wiki Loves..., photo competitions, series of events with different volunteer participants
  • Annual program plans or annual project grants composed of a series of smaller projects.
  • Here's a good example from real life: Grants:WM UA/Programs in Ukraine 2012/Report

See also