Background, rationale and purpose of a Practice Note

An ACFID Practice Note is an ACFID-approved document which aims to improve the practice of ACFID member agencies and other aid and development actors in a designated area of work. This can include development practice, humanitarian practice or organisational practice.

A Practice Note is only one way that ACFID and its members share practice but can be an important leverage point for practice change and demonstration within the sector and beyond.

These guidelines are designed to assist those members who wish to propose or craft a Practice Note and includes criteria and considerations which can be useful in their development.

The purpose of these Guidelines is to;

  • ensure Practice Notes are relevant to the sector;
  • ensure relevant bodies are involved in their development;
  • ensure content reflects good practice;
  • encourage the advancement of better practice;
  • facilitate the use of the Practice Note;
  • clarify the process for development of Practice Notes;
  • clarify responsibilities.

The ACFID Secretariat supports, guides and monitors the development and use of ACFID Practice Notes to ensure consistency and ACFID wide applicability.  Generation of Practice Notes can come from a variety of sources such as: ACFID Secretariat, Communities of Practice, the Development Practice Committee, the Humanitarian Reference Group, the Code of Conduct Committee and other sources. Information about some of these groups can be found on the ACFID website here.

ACFID will support the development of a Practice Note once its concept has been tested with the relevant COP/Committee.

Criteria for approving the necessity or desirability of a practice note include:

  • Addresses an emerging need
  • Addresses a significant risk to the sector
  • Aligns with ACFID’s strategic priorities
  • The ability to push practice from its current state to a higher level of better practice
  • Offers members a sample of good practice examples, potentially including new or innovative opportunities

All ACFID Practice Notes must be signed off by the ACFID CEO or their delegate.

Procedures – how do we go about developing a Practice Note?

  1. Contact the ACFID Secretariat focal point (an ACFID staff member) when it has been decided that a Practice Note might be produced. The focal point will then identify the relevant person in the ACFID secretariat to take it forward.
  2. A Concept Note (see template provided, appendix #2 to this document) will need to be drafted, which is designed to outline the intent of the forthcoming Practice Note.
  3.  (i) The Concept Note needs to be provided to the relevant committee, for their consideration.
    (ii) Share the Concept Note with other relevant Communities of Practice and other Committees initially for comment if needed.
    (iii)The relevant committee will then recommend to ACFID whether the Concept Not should proceed as part of the ACFID Practice Notes series.

    If the idea for a Practice Note has not come from within an ACFID committee or Community of Practice, then you will need to contact the relevant committee to inform them about the proposed Practice Note. The ACFID Secretariat can assist in making these connections.
  4. Committee comments on the Concept Note, are then transmitted directly to the Practice Note drafter.
  5. The draft Practice Note (see template provided, appendix #1 to this document) is developed with input from interested/relevant ACFID members as appropriate and shared with ACFID Secretariat for comment.

    The Practice Note drafter may need to actively canvass a wide range of ACFID members to ensure appropriate levels of interest/buy-in and input.  This could be via face to face meetings or teleconference.
  6. The Practice Note drafter revises the Practice Note and sends to the relevant committee for comment/endorsement at their next meeting.
  7. The Drafter takes final comments on board and finalises content with ACFID input.
  8. ACFID CEO signoff and ACFID Preface are included, which is facilitated by the ACFID Secretariat.
  9. Publishing on-line (ACFID Website) ACFID Resource Library, Good Practice Toolkit – as facilitated by the ACFID Secretariat.
  10.  Promotion via ACFID blog, member bulletin etc. as facilitated by the ACFID Secretariat.

Administration – how do we keep tabs on the currency of Practice Notes?

  • The ACFID focal point will keep a register of practice notes and ensure that all versions are available on the ACFID Website (, with links to relevant sections of the Good Practice Toolkit where appropriate.
  • The ACFID focal point will oversee a review by the originating authors of the Practice Note every two to three years to check currency and links
  • Practice Notes will form vital parts of occasional thematic or topic specific reviews of Communities of Practice or ACFID.
  • ACFID will report yearly on website-based hits on Practice Notes

And ultimately – what are the hallmarks of an effective Good Practice Note?

A good Practice Note should help educate members on the specific issue. It should provide them with guidance, explain good practices, and suggest ways in which one can extend practice. See the following template (appendix #1) which provides some guidance as to layout.

Language and intended audience - It should speak to its intended target audience. Whilst this will largely be ACFID members and others within the international aid & development sector, it should be mindful that the language used will either serve the reader or isolate the reader. A document which is easily legible to a ‘lay- person’ will have more traction than one that embeds specific terminology that is less understood outside the sector.

Length - Ideally the Practice Note will be 5 pages or less. If the matter really requires further information, consideration could be given to annexes or companion documents, rather than making the Practice Note too lengthy. Whilst this 5-page limit may sound arbitary, the lengthier the document, the less chance people will read it.

Imagery - The use of imagery, graphs, diagrams and photographs to illustrate the content is well-received.

Case studies / real examples – take the time to use a variety of real-life case studies, stories and examples which show how effective practice is being achieved.

Examples of published Practice Notes…

Responsible International Volunteering for Development _ February 2018

Youth Participation in Development _ October 2016

Disability Inclusive Development _December 2015

Effective Development Practice with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities by International Aid and Development NGOs_February 2014

Human Rights-Based Approaches to Development _ May 2010


(No more than 2 pages)


Here is guidance to help you produce a Concept Note, which is the pre-cursor for developing the Practice Note. The below template acts as a guide to prompt information that should be included.



  1. Rationale and background to the proposed Practice Note. Authors are encouraged to summarise what process(es) led to the development of the Concept Note. For example, did it arise out of an evaluation or series of evaluations, if so what approach was used etc? Authors should also demonstrate the evidence base for the proposed Practice Note/What gap it seeks to fill?
  2. Purpose/target audience needs to be identified, this will help inform the language used.
  3. Brief summary of what it will cover and what it won’t cover (scope)
  4. Link to other relevant practice notes or documents or work in the space
  5. How it will be developed, including Identification of the ACFID members and other stakeholders who will need to be consulted and any external stakeholders who should see drafts
  6. Roll out communication strategy of the Practice Note (and whether it needs to be printed, or not)
  7. Potential alignment or impact on the Code of Conduct
  8. How we might monitor its use and uptake
  9. Where to go to learn more


Here is a template which is used to guide the drafting of any Practice Note. It prompts information that should be included and serves to help make Practice Notes consistent in structure and outlook.



Endorsed at committee? Meeting (Insert Date of Meeting)

Prepared by …

1. Purpose/Background

Why is this Practice Note important? Who was consulted in the research? Who is the intended audience?

2. Introduction

Why now? Trends in development? Caveats: what this Practice Note is not.

3. Content

Theory, cases, examples, evidence-based content (what evidence is there to support/challenge ideas being put forward in the Practice Note), general challenges.

4. Conclusion/Recommendations

Links to the ACFID Code of Conduct, common themes, suggested practices, key questions (to prompt reflective practice).

5. Further Resources

Where to go to learn more…

Form and Style:

  • Devise a title that is descriptive and inviting.
  • Be concise. Practice Notes should be no longer than 7 pages.
  • Avoid jargon so that the paper is accessible to a wide audience
  • Correct spelling, punctuation, and typographical errors
  • Fully acknowledge all sources.

***Use existing Practice Notes to help guide the development of the proposed Practice Note***