Design and Management
This paper highlights issues that will assist organizations and community leaders to put together project proposals attractive to potential funders, and to manage projects in an acceptable manner. There are no fixed rules. Different factors should be considered, according to the funding agency and type of project. The paper also discusses briefly the relationship of organizations with funding agencies, and especially areas of disagreement.
is a project?
All the above definitions have some common words (italicized), suggesting that there are certain characteristics to a project. These are:
Objectives: The objectives should be specific, measurable, verifiable and attainable.
Uniqueness: Each project is unique, for several reasons. For example, it involves different groups of people; it is temporary, it will start and end; people with different skills work on it; and different relationships develop.
Resources: Projects are accomplished through resources – funds, human and material.
Organization: Many individuals with varied skills, interests, personalities and unpredictability are involved. In this regard it may be quite frustrating because of the varied levels of commitment and personal agendas.
For many organizations, projects are set up to deal with specific issues or needs. The needs may be to service the target groups or the organization itself. Projects may be commercial (raising money), economic (to sustain the organization), or for social development (serve the target).
Therefore the main purpose of planning is to facilitate good choices of goals, strategies and methods. Project planning and control is concerned with the achievement of predetermined objectives by planning the relationships between, and by setting restraints on, the use of resources; and by subsequently monitoring progress against that plan and, where necessary, rescheduling.
Experience indicates a common tendency to concentrate on the implementation of activities rather than on objectives when planning development projects, illustrated by statements such as “the goal is to start a dancing group” and “our aim is to start a crafts training school”, instead of “the goal is to reduce unemployment” and “our aim is to curb juvenile delinquency”. The tendency to jump directly to the envisaged activities creates mental blocks, which obstruct development of alternative solutions. It is important to set objectives first before making a decision on the means to be employed.
For a project to reach a satisfactory planned conclusion, many elements
must be considered and controlled. A most important one is the human factor,
which has the capability to influence the project from both within and
without. Plans are needed to:
Coordination and communication: There is a golden rule to project planning: “Get the person who will do the job to plan the job.” No job is too hard for the person who does not have to do it, but persons who plan their own tasks are more likely to be able to do them. Project planning coordinates various expertise as people with different skills come together to work on a project. The planning must communicate because in the absence of the project manager someone should be able to take it forward.
Monitoring: Plans are the basis for project monitoring activity. What we do not know when we start is where and how our project will deviate from the plan. Deviations, detected by monitoring progress, constitute early warning signals of problems to be resolved or the need for replanning. It could also be a sign that the project will not achieve its intended aim.
Requirement satisfaction: Plans are sometimes created merely to satisfy requirements imposed by others, for example customers or bosses. They are in such instances often set up under duress rather than because they are perceived to be valuable. They are often a waste of time because they never take off.
Problem avoidance: Project management is sometimes a race against disaster. Plans cannot prevent problems, but good plans help avoid problems during implementation.
Main stages in development of a project
Feasibility study: To avoid wasting time on developing ideas that might be discarded, it is important to undertake a feasibility study that provides a thorough background with information on overall justification for the project, target groups, their needs, and the effects (positive and negative) and major results anticipated. Feasibility studies are not a must in all cases; there might be instances where no formal studies are required, as information may already be available from previous experiences. However, some research into the literature or interviews and meetings might be conducted. This stage should determine and confirm the need for a project.
Project design: Main components are designed at this stage without necessarily going into the details of activities and necessary inputs. The perspective is the whole project and its context.
Detailed planning: This entails the project implementation plan, the intended output, activities and input, as well as monitoring systems, time schedules and budget.
Monitoring: This is the periodic and/or continuous surveillance of the project. It is important to build it into the project.
Project review: There must be agreement for review of the project as an element in the follow-up by the donor/funder. This aspect is dependent on the nature and size of the project, but also on the policies of the donor.
Evaluation: The evaluation process should involve all stakeholders. This exercise should assess the impact and relevance of the project in relation to its stated objectives, target groups, etc. The evaluation is complemented by the monitoring system and therefore should not need to go into detailed historical evaluations.
The above stages are not a rule. They are or may be dependent on a number of issues such as the size of the project, the donor, the environment, and so on.
An effective project plan accomplishes the following tasks:
Donors themselves are quite varied in their set-ups, as far as their areas of interest are concerned. However, since they are basically development agents, the areas of interest usually revolve around the same issues, such as HIV/AIDS, women and gender, the under-privileged or disadvantaged, youth, environment, etc. Consequently, it is important to know the donor community very well.
A project proposal should answer the following questions:
Most applications require the following information in some form or another:
Summary: This part of the proposal summarizes the main content of the document. It varies from a few sentences to a few pages. It should be specific to the proposed project, and is usually written after the rest of the proposal has been drawn up.
Introduction: In this section the organization is introduced, with its background, mission, vision, legal status and capacity.
Purpose: The aims of the proposal are described, and this includes a problem- or need-synopsis. Insights are given into the solution which the proposal addresses, the donors’ interests are compared with the project interests, and factual/statistical information is provided.
Objectives: The specific objectives that must be addressed in order to meet the needs described in the purpose section are listed.
Proposed intervention/implementation: “The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” For each objective, the work to be done and achievement at each stage are given. The outcomes expected, resources available, and the monitoring and evaluation systems are described.
Financial plan/cost/budget: A financial plan should outline what each stage and work package costs, who is accountable, the financial benefits to be derived, the financial commitment made, the cash flow, and the financial authorization in place.
If the system provides this information, the financial feedback to the donor is more or less satisfactory.
Innovative ways of enhancing involvement are through focus groups, facilitated workshops, early prototyping and simulations.
Relationships with funding agencies
2. Staffing and personnel
4. Facilities, equipment, services
5. Legitimacy and approval
Bargaining and negotiation techniques
Attracting additional funding
Cooperation and cooptation
Personal contact: Written material may be important but should not substitute personal contact. Routine visits should supplement the official contacts. Keep them businesslike but informal. Be sure to have real issues to talk about, e.g. changes that may occur or are anticipated; problems that may be cropping up; progress in implementation and achieving of objectives, consultation for instance for funder mileage and how if it is to be published it should be worded, etc.
Principles of effective reports
2. Relevance and responsiveness
4. Interest and impact
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