Project Planning

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Project Planning: From Concept to Completion

Published by Marine Reach Ministries
Highfield Oval, Ambrose Lane
Harpenden, Hertfordshire,
AL5 4BX, UK
First edition written by Bonar Bell, published 2008

Introduction

So, you want to run a project? If you are like most people, you are probably asking yourself, "what should I do?" or "how do I make it all work?" These questions are quite normal. If you truly want to do the best project you can with what God has given you, you need to plan well.


If you are reading this manual, it can be assumed that i) you want to run your first project, or ii) you want to learn how to make your projects more successful. Either way, this manual is designed to assist you, from the beginning of a project to the end.

What is a Project?

It is quite likely that you aren't totally sure about what you want to do. You might also bewondering if what you want to do is actually a project. A project has a few set characteristics that define it. Read the list below to ensure that what you want to do is a project.

  • Fixed Start and End Dates
    A true project is a temporary activity. It begins and ends at a certain time. No project can continue without an end.
  • Specific Goals
    A project is meant to meet an objective or set of goals within a certain timeframe.
  • Defined Responsibilities
    Each member of the project team is responsible for specific things. The team works together to accomplish the goals and objectives within the specified timeframe.
  • Budget
    A project has a set budget, which helps to define its scope. A true project must be designed in such a way that the project team accomplishes the specific goals and objectives within the timeframe and within the designed budget.

Why do You Want to do a Project?

There are several reasons why someone would like to run a project. For some, it is a mandatory requirement of their job. For others, they feel a calling, or a responsibility to act. Most people, however, run projects so they can have tangible results of the work they do. If you have spent days, weeks, months, or even years working with a certain group of people, you most likely would want to accomplish something, and show that your efforts were worthwhile. How will this manual help?


This manual was written to assist anyone designing a project, from start to finish. It will help you to identify the need for a project (Chapter 1), assist in the planning stages (Chapter 2), and take you into project implementation (Chapter 3). The manual also helps you to measure your project's success, through monitoring and evaluation techniques (Chapter 4), and once a project is finished, the results need to be communicated, which is detailed in this manual (Chapter 5).


Throughout the manual you will find instructions for you to follow. Please complete the included worksheets and charts before you move onto the next chapter of the manual.
Have fun!

Identification

You may be overwhelmed at the idea of running a project. You might feel unprepared, or unqualified for such a daunting task. Although you may have never run a large-scale project, you are more prepared than you might expect. Each day you are faced with several mini projects: brushing your teeth, doing laundry, and making lunch are all examples of projects you do every day. You have the ability to run projects! Now you must ask yourself, "what project will I do"?

What Will You Do?

You may already have an idea of the project you want to run. It may be formulated in your head, and you may have let your mind run, filling with exciting possibilities. That is great! I encourage you to write down these ideas and brainstorm all of the possibilities. It is quite likely, however, that you don't have any idea where to begin. You may be confused by all of the possibilities available, and might want clarification or guidance on what to do. Don't panic; you're not alone. Whether you have countless ideas or none, the ways to find clarification are the same.


• Pray about it
If you have no ideas, and (especially) if you have many ideas, it is important to seek God first. By laying down all of your ideas and asking, "God, what do you want me to do?" you are allowing God to take control of your project, opening up the realm of impossibility. God wants to use you to do immeasurably more than you could ever hope or imagine! Wait on the Lord. He may give you interest in a particular city, country, or continent, a people group, or even lead you to a particular person or ministry. The ideas may be vague or specific,
and it is very likely that they will seem impossible. God wants to use you to make the impossible possible. He wants to use you to show His glory.
• See where God is at work
Don't worry if God hasn't given you a specific word about where He wants you to run a project, or what He wants you to do. In the popular book, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby explains that God is always at work around us. At the right time, God will invite you to work with Him where He is already at work. For any project to be truly successful, and spiritually significant, it must be accompanied by the Holy Spirit's presence. You may have read about a particular ministry or heard about an opportunity. You may have been invited
by someone on the field, or given a suggestion by a random contact that you have made. Take a strong look into these options, and see if God is behind them.
Evaluate your interests, gifts, and abilities
Another excellent way of determining what kind of project you will run is to evaluate what interests, gifts, and abilities your team has. You may be skilled at construction work, teaching, or health care. You might be gifted with compassion, mercy, or evangelism. By identifying these strengths, your team can come up with a common theme or project idea. Once you have an idea, pray and ask God to see where He is working, to identify where you can apply your interests, gifts, and abilities into a project.
Determine what is needed
If God has given you a heart for a specific place or people group, it is extremely important to identify what the needs in that area are. Some needs are quite obvious, while others aren't. By gaining a broad selection of information about a community, you can ensure your project will be valid. There are several ways to determine the needs in the area:
Face-to-Face
Meeting with community members face-to-face is the most ideal way to collect information about a community. By talking to community representatives, you can identify felt needs, and determine what they feel would be the most needed projects. By talking to people from different demographic groups (men, women, children, doctors, teachers, pastors, etc.), you can discuss the problems in the community, and work with community members to find solutions. A description of key ways to collect information from community members is located on page 24.
Talk About It
Another valuable way to determine need is by asking knowledgeable workers in the area. By consulting with workers on the field, you can get an idea of what living conditions are like, what projects have been beneficial and which projects haven't worked well.
Look It Up
One of the most beneficial ways to gather information about a country or people group is to do a secondary assessment. This requires a bit of research into the statistical data surrounding the area of interest. There are several agencies that collect regional data on a regular basis, and it would be best to compliment your other assessments with this data. A selection of resources has been included on page 25.

What Happens Next?

Once you have a basic idea of what the needs of a community are, and what you want to do for a project, it is important to summarize these thoughts and ideas into a document called a concept note. This document can then be used for fundraising, and to determine if the project idea fits with your budget, timeframe, or organizational mandates. A selection of things that should be included in the concept note has been included on page 26.

Design

At this point, you should have a general idea of what kind of project you want to run, and what is needed. Once these ideas have been formulated, and you want to move into the
planning stages, there are several areas that you must look into, to ensure your project is well designed. Many people don't look into the background thoroughly enough, and then wonder why the project wasn't successful. This stage of project planning will require researching into several different areas, in order to ensure an effective project:
• Know The Issue
It is important to be knowledgeable about the issue that your project seeks to address. For example, if you are looking to work with HIV patients, make sure you understand HIV and its effects on patients, medical professionals, and the community in question.
• What Affects the Issue?
You should look into the aspects that affect the issue that your project aims to address (economic, political, administrative, social, cultural, spiritual and physical).
• Who Will Your Project Affect?
Look into how the project will affect people both directly, and indirectly. Look at social factors, economic activities and relationships; roles of men, women, boys, girls, disabled people and different ethnic groups; cultural attitudes; power structures; etc. Be as detailed as possible.
• Other Organizations Working in the Area
What are the strengths and weaknesses of available projects and programmes in the area? What has been tried previously? How can you partner with local agencies to ensure your short-term project has a long-term impact?
• What Resources Do You Have?
Evaluate the resources you have for the project. This can be available locally and through other organizations and donors, including people, training, equipment, infrastructure and money.
• Previous Lessons Learned
If you have done a similar project, or worked in the area in the past, take note of the lessons your team or organization has learned.

Goal Setting

Once you have gathered information about the problem and its causes, you have to move into the next phase of planning: Goal Setting. Many projects are unsuccessful because this step isn't done. Goal setting is extremely important for the Monitoring and Evaluation phase of your project (Chapter 4).

What Are Goals?

You probably already understand what goal setting is. A new year's resolution is an example of a goal that you would set every year. Unfortunately (for a variety of reasons), most personal goals are often forgotten about, and as a result, are unsuccessful. A goal is referring to the overall problem that you are trying to address. The goal could be the same for a number of projects and for a number of organizations. A goal will help you to focus your work, and determine the measurements used to determine progress. To help you plan, fill in the chart on page 27. A helpful acronym to design your overall goal is SMART:
• Specific
Your goal should be made specific. Ask the 6 "W" questions: Who? What? Where? Why? When? Which? The more specific your goal are, the more focused your project will be.
• Measurable
Your goal is there so you can tell what you have done. As a result, there should be some means of showing that the change has actually occurred as a result of your project. This can be quantitative and/or qualitative measurement.
• Achievable
When you set your goal, make sure that you understand the amount of effort that must be put into making it happen. Your goal should be something that your organization or team wants to be able to achieve. It should be agreed on by all the team, to ensure that it is where your team wants to be.
• Realistic
Setting an attainable goal must go hand in hand with reality. Your team can plan to build 1000 homes for a project, and truly believe that this is where your team wants to be, but unless you have the time, budget, skills and knowledge, it may not be realistic. Take into consideration all of your resources and plan realistically.
• Time Bound
Projects cannot run forever. To effectively measure your goal, you must have a clear end date set. You can run an assessment at the beginning, middle and end of the project to see the change that has occurred. No end date = No good.

Actions and Results

Once you have written out your goals, it is extremely important to make corresponding actions. Your actions will help you to break down your goals into tangible steps, and prepare for the results. The results of the actions should be easy to identify based on your actions, given that you assume certain things are present. For example: If your goal is to improve the oral health of children aged 8-12, your activities might be 1) a health education programme in their schools 2) a dental checkup every 4 months for a year and 3) supplying children with the tools they need to keep their teeth and mouths hygienic. As a result of these activities, 1)Increased knowledge of oral hygiene, 2) corrective and preventative oral hygiene practices, and 3) regular flossing and brushing of teeth, mouth and gums. These results will help to meet your goal through your planned activities, assuming, of course, that the children will attend the projected activities, that the children will follow the routines, and that access to fresh, running water is readily available to the children.

Indicators for Measurement

Now that we have clearly determined goals, activities and results, we have to decide how to measure the success of our project. There are three stages of measurement in the project life cycle:
1. At the Start of your Project
2. During your Project
3. At the Completion of your Project
Measuring your project is extremely important for several reasons. Without knowing where you start from, you don't know what you have done at the end of your project. You will never truly know where you start from, without firstly measuring. Each activity needs to have a measurement indicator, to ensure success. For example, a dental health education programme that results in increased knowledge of oral hygiene would need a way to measure children's knowledge. An indicator for this project could be a basic test that is given at the beginning and end of the project.

Filling in the Project Chart

Now that you have decided upon goals, activities, results, assumptions and indicators, you have the information needed to fill in a project chart. Turn to page 28. Read the sample and create your own project chart (blank chart located on page 27). This chart is extremely useful for the completion of a full project proposal.

Budget

You may have a great deal of resources to run your project. You might have just the right amount of money, resources, supplies and volunteers to execute your project successfully.
However, you might not. You might have none of the resources that you need to complete the project. Whether you have the money or not, the process of project design must not change. Too often, planning boards design projects based on how much money they have at the present moment. God has big plans for you and your project. He is not limited to your financial resources, or your volunteers, so don't get your project caught up in your bank balance. There are several ways to budget for your project. The basic and most simple idea is to determine how large the project will be, and then break it down into expenses and resources.

Expenses

When you design your budget, you need to break down all of the potential costs related only to your project. Your project costs include everything that would cost money during your
project. This includes staff, supplies, locations, etc. Don't worry at this stage about where you are going to get your money, just write down how much it will cost.

Resources

Now that you have determined how much money it will cost to run your project, you must figure out how you will get that money and those resources. Volunteers may donate their
time and labor costs for your project, a hospital may donate an examination table, or you may have some of the finances set aside already. Document all of these resources, and see what your budget looks like. From the expenses and the resources, you will find the discrepancy.

Discrepancy

The discrepancy is calculated by taking the amount that your project will cost, and take away the amount you already have. Basically, the Expenses -- Resources = Discrepancy. This is the total that you don't have yet. There are several avenues to acquire these resources:
• Prayer
There are countless stories of God's merciful provision of resources for different projects. Trust that if God guides you, He will provide for you.
• Fundraising
One of the most important elements of fundraising is creativity. There is no limit to how you can raise money for your project. You can host banquets or dinners, organize a marathon, or use creative advertising to attract the interest of potential donors. The sky is the limit, and it truly pays to be unique.
• Gifts-in-Kind
Many projects are able to get a variety of supplies and resources donated "inkind". In basic terms, these are donations of supplies and materials to your project. They could be vehicles, computers, medical equipment, etc. There is no limit to what you could receive, as long as it fits with your project, that is.
• Grant Funding
There are a lot of groups worldwide that will fund different kinds of projects. With a well-written project proposal, you should be able to gain the interest of some funding agencies, potentially forming relationships for future projects. Example groups could include: government bodies, charities, churches, foundations, individual donors, etc. Each type of application for funding will require different information, so it is important to try and tailor your proposal towards their requirements.

Timeline

If you are inexperienced with projects, you may have a hard time deciding how long your activities will take, and what order you should do them in. It is important that you take into
consideration all of the resources that you have, and to be realistic with your timeline. Don't plan to change the world in a day. That being said, you will have to be flexible during your project, because not everything will go as planned. Be as specific as you can, and take into consideration that not all activities will happen right after the other. Some projects will begin before another activity is completed.

Charting Timelines

A very useful tool for laying out your timeline is the Gantt chart. It lists all of your activities across the left hand side, and the dates across the top, allowing you to clearly see when projects begin and finish. See page 29 for more information on the Gantt Chart.

Project Proposal

The project proposal is the final stage of project design. The project proposal is only a little more than all of your information, your project goals and activities, and results and indicators of success, put together with the concept note and the budget. This will be relatively lengthy, but most of the elements will already be complete. The recommended elements of a project proposal have been included on page 30.

Implementation

Now that you have completed your project proposal, you can move into the implementation of your project. This should be fairly straightforward, and will require only basic management skills to ensure the project is going on par.

Project Implementation Plan

A basic tool that will assist in the implementation phase of your project, is the Project Implementation Plan. This will take the information that you have gathered about your project,
and put it into a chart of responsibilities, budget and timeline, so you can keep watch of all the details. A blank implementation plan has been included on page 31.

Communications

It is especially crucial at this stage of the project to keep communicating with donors, leadership, and any others who have an interest in your project. Technology is quite helpful for
communication with people from around the world. Some tools you can use. Again, being creative is extremely helpful in communications:
• Website
There are many places on the Internet where you can set up a free website, allowing you to create entries about your project. You can update the site as frequently as you want, and anyone interested can read it at his or her convenience.
• Newsletters
This is a well-used technique to keep donors informed of the progress of your projects. Include pictures and personal stories from locals to describe how your project has impacted them. This can be distributed to many people, and isn't expected to be personal.
• Personal Letters
Writing (or typing) personal letters can be a fresh way to share your work with others. It allows you to explain how your project is coming along in personal terms, and how your work has affected you personally. Although time consuming, it has been proven an effective means of communication.
• Video Conference
Another excellent way of communicating your project to large groups is to create a video about your current progress, or (if available) setting up a live video call with groups of interested people. Through video, you can express a personal stories, and show, visually, the project site. It is an extremely effective way to show what your team is working on.

Phasing Out the Project

During the design and implementation of your project, you should have a good idea how you want the project to end. The most beneficial projects have a sustainability factor associated with them. If you are running an oral hygiene project where you implement an education programme in local schools, the sustainability is that the teachers will continue to use the programme after the project is over. If the local teachers helped to design, and see the value in the programme, it is likely that they will continue it.

Measuring,monitoring and Evaluating

Measuring, Monitoring and Evaluation are three terms that are overlooked by many. During a project, we don't feel that we have time to monitor, and once we are done, we are so
quick to move onto the next project, that we hardly evaluate our work. It is extremely important that your project includes measuring, monitoring and evaluation in order to:
a) ensure your project is making the intended impact;
b) re-evaluate your resources, expenses and timeline; and
c) communicate to your donors and beneficiaries that your project is making a difference.

What is Measuring?

Measuring is the act of quantifying our projects success. This is done through the use of the indicators that were discussed in chapter 2. It is crucial to the success of the project that
you measure your project before, during and after.


Let's say you have a personal project designed. You would like to become healthier by this time next year. You have decided that the indicators of success are a reduced resting heart rate by 5%, lowered body weight by 10 kg, and an improved self-image assessment. At the start of your project implementation, you will want to run a series of tests, to measure where you stand at the beginning. You will step on a scale, and see how much you weigh, you will check your blood pressure, your heart rate, take a survey on how you view your body health etc. When all of the tests are completed, it will all come out with your baseline scores.

What is Monitoring?

Once you have collected your baseline scores, you are set to begin your implementation. You might be doing a series of activities to improve your overall health (diet, exercise, etc.),
but as we know from experience, not all diets and exercises will work the same for everyone. This is why monitoring is very important. Monitoring is the act of taking measurements during a project. These must be the exact same tests that were done at the start (when you were collecting your baseline data). In the above example, you will check your weight, blood pressure, heart rate, and do the survey all over again. Once this data is collected, it can be compared with the baseline scores. If the scores are moving towards your goal, then you are heading in the right direction. However, if they aren't, it may be time to re-evaluate your project activities. Monitoring can happen multiple times throughout your project, but be careful; in some circumstances it is quite a lengthy and costly procedure.

What is Evaluation?

Evaluation is the final measurement of your project. This is done after the project is completed, and is performed in the exact same way as the monitoring. Once you have taken your final measurements, you will compare it with the baseline and mid-point data, to see the impact that your project made on the population. You will also compare your results to your goals at this stage. In the above example, you will weigh yourself and see that you are now 8kg lighter, you have reduced your resting heart rate by 4% and you have an improved self-image. You have become healthier as a result of your project, but you haven't hit the goals you had set. If you haven't reached your goals, there may be several reasons why. It is possible that your project was unrealistic; maybe things took much longer than expected; perhaps things were more expensive than you had anticipated, etc. There are several reasons why your goals may not have been met. All of this should be communicated in your final report.

Reporting

It is extremely important that your project results are reported upon completion. If the results of your project are not reported, the whole exercise of measurement will have been a
waste of time and resources. As a result, your results should be presented in a way that makes it accessible and understandable to the people who need them. After collecting your information, you should be able to draw conclusions based on the project. These conclusions will include recommendations for action, including:
• What courses of action should be taken
• How they should be implemented, and by whom
• What resources are needed
• What problems are likely to occur, and how can they be addressed
• The follow-up that will be needed to make sure the recommendations will be acted upon.
Finally, the results should be filed and referenced in such a way that it will be available to:
• People working on the project in the future
• People working on similar projects who could learn from the experience
• Donors and beneficiaries of the project.

Resources

For full resources, download the .pdf version of this document below.

25px-Pdf.png Project planning.PDF