by Gaia U co-founder and president, Andrew Langford

Those of us engaged in practical projects are often too busy ‘doing’ to document our work in any depth, especially if documentation is not included as a goal or requirement of our projects.

Several disadvantages can arise from this omission.

  • If lack of documentation means we are too busy to even reflect on our work, then it suggests that we are not consciously or methodically passing through that vital ‘reflective observation’ mode of learning from experiences. Thus a great many of the opportunities for profound learning and unlearning may, therefore, be missed and we may merely continue to ‘do’ projects that are not actually effective regards to our goals.
  • Nor will your skills in using yourself as subject (a key action learning orientation) show up well. An insightful, self-conscious self (meaning aware, not embarrassed) tells meaningful stories of how they un/learned what from whom (or what experiences), when and where and this narrative, well documented is one of the most powerful ways to develop and show your capacity for critical reflection.
  • Likewise, we may wind up with very limited evidence of our journey/pathway especially regards how conscious we were about making our choices of what directions to take, what systems to intervene in and what resulted from our intervening efforts.

All these aspects have both intrinsic and extrinsic value. Intrinsic here means that you are aware of the value of your journey for yourself and whilst you may want to increase the potency of the un/learning for yourself you are not seeking other people’s attention.

Extrinsic means that you want to be able to show other people just how much competence and attention you have because, for example, you want feedback, mentoring, might be applying for funds, jobs, credits for a qualification and more.

We are often differentiated from other people in that we value intrinsic above extrinsic value, and that is mostly a good aspect of who we are – we want to do what we do, not for the awards, the money, the power, the status but more for the richness we experience from following our own inspirations and from working for ecological regeneration and social justice. Indeed we might live by the motto in the poster below: –

However, it does help with gathering resource (accessing funds perhaps) if we can show others how effective we are (even with slim resources) and we also do enjoy being affirmed and validated by others for the power of our works.

On the larger, epistemic community level, collected stories of our un/learnings are critical to the take-up of our thinking in the world. That is, our capacity for leading yet more significant change efforts are enhanced when we can show that our collective efforts are working. This requires that we publish good content as much as we can. By documenting we increase everybody’s effectiveness.