• Karla Hammerskov Andersen
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)

This master’s thesis examines how the increased demand for documentation faced by many civil society organizations plays out in the local partner organizations and how the documentation requirements affect the social work carried out. The study focuses on the outermost link of the organization – the so-called frontline workers. It consists of a), an investigation of the documentation requirements imposed on the frontline workers and b), a study of the positive and negative aspects of documenting including an exploration of the frontline workers’ handling of the challenging aspects of documenting.

The study is based on semi structured qualitative interviews with 12 frontline workers and four project coordinators from four local partner organizations in Bolivia. Documents in the form of reports, evaluations or other types of documentation elaborated by the frontline workers are also included. Theoretically, the study draws on literature on accountability, literature on evaluation as well as literature regarding the behavior of “street level bureaucrats.”

The study concludes that the documentation requirements imposed on the frontline workers has beneficial as well as adverse effects thus influencing their daily work practice in both positive and negative ways. On the one hand, the documentation serves a wide range of purposes and is used actively in their daily work. For several frontline workers documentation functions as a basis for analysis, adjustment and improvement of the project activities as well as a means of verification. For some the act of documenting also constitutes a space of increased reflection, concentration and learning. However, documenting ones work is also a time-consuming activity, which may seem stressful and at times annoying. Some also find it difficult - using the mandatory reporting formats - to properly document their activities.

Additionally, the study finds that in order to cope with the challenging aspects of documenting; the frontline workers develop a series of “coping mechanisms”. Though involving the risk of losing valuable information or rendering superfluous traditional forms of documentation, they also serve to facilitate and make the act of documentation more effective – permitting in this way an adherence to both documentation requirements and mission.
Publication date1 Apr 2014
Number of pages128
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 196107902