PROJECT DEVELOPMENT TOOLS

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INTRODUCTION

You have already gone through an inspiring journey introducing you to new ideas, challenges and inspiring stories on how to be part of the change our planet needs. The final part of this journey is intended to bring together the knowledge you gained from previous modules and provide you with some additional tools and guidelines to strengthen your competences for developing your own project, whether it is a activism or advocacy campaign, an entrepreneurship or green business, or a non-profit organization or a community mobilization.

Whatever you decide, you are Youth for Our Planet and our global community is here to support you.

OBJECTIVE

This module will teach you the basic steps of a project cycle, give you the basic tools for fundraising, and will offer some ideas for measuring your impact.

SUMMARY

How to Begin a Project From Zero

Designing a new program or project can be challenging, scary, and exciting. Taking the first step is always the hardest part, so before you do it’s important to take some time and thoughtfully write down a clear vision for your project, an outline of the steps it will take to get there, envision what success will and feel like, and remember that you aren’t alone! The tools on the following pages will help you to create a structure that will help to ensure your success.

Non-profit program development differs from the design of private sector projects or initiatives that are focused on maximizing humanitarian aid, which also differs from simply hosting an event yourself. Regardless of which model you choose, they all share similar principles and systems even if the terminology may vary.

The Problem

The first step is to understand what problem you want to tackle. This normally involves some type of diagnosis, or research, to identify the root of the problem. You can find more resources for uncovering this in module 13. Once you identify an issue or a space for action you can conduct a problem tree analysis to find out what problems exist, its causes, how it affects the world around it, and any other additional perceptions.

The problem tree tool helps find solutions and bottlenecks to address through mapping out an issue’s causes and effects. To begin, place your topic at the trunk, this will be your Focal Issue. The causes of the Focal Issue lie in the roots, and the effects of the Focal Issue will appear in the branches of the tree. Your project should aim to tackle the root cause(s) of your Focal Issue.

Stakeholder Mapping & Analysis

As we saw in module 13, stakeholder mapping helps to identify a set of actors that influence or are affected by your focal issue and project. It’s important to record these stakeholders to better understand all of different people and perspectives you will need to manage, mobilize, and/or influence throughout the creation and implementation of your project.

Stakeholders may include community members, relevant authorities or local government, companies, beneficiaries, NGOs, or user groups. Projects often have a variety of stakeholder groups, and it’s important to identify and engage them during the early stages of your project development. When engaging with these stakeholders, it is useful to ask the following questions for each group:

  • Problem: What are the key problems they face?
  • Motivation: What motivates them? What are they interested in?
  • Potential: How could they contribute to solving the problems identified?
  • Interaction: How can we better communicate with these actors?

Not all stakeholders will be directly involved in the project, but it is relevant to see what role they may or may not play and how they can potentially influence the progress of your work.

Available Resources

Think about the resources and skills you have available for your project, beyond the monetary, you should consider what your team and organization’s capacities are during a project’s design process.

  • What resources do you have available?
  • What skills do you currently have on the team?

This information will help you determine the types of programs that can actually be implemented. For example, you cannot design a coral planting intervention if your organization does not have coral specialists. A useful tool for this step is a SWOT analysis, which identifies an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You can build a table similar to this one, and list the items you can identify according to each box.

Setting SMART Objectives

Once you have identified the project you will undertake to tackle your focal issue, mapped out your stakeholders, and outlined what skills and resources exist, the next step is to determine your objectives for the project. Project objectives will be what you are working to achieve in a set amount of time in order to meet an overarching goal. Your initiative can have a single goal or several specific subgoals towards a series of results.

How to write SMART objectives.

SMART is an acronym that can help you remember, and evaluate and structure your project’s objectives. Thus when writing an objective you have to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Specific: Is there a clear action and expected result for the objective? Measurable: Can the objective be described with numbers, or milestones? Can you measure on your own or access a measurement of this objective before and after your project?
  • Achievable: Do you have the resources and capacities in your organization to reach this objective?
  • Relevant: Is the objective in line with your projects overarching goal? Objectives should be arguments to the answer of questions such as ‘What impact does this project have?’ and ‘Why is it important?’
  • Time-bound: Is there a deadline or specific frame of time for the objective to be accomplished? And for the project in general? For example:
  • In year 1, we will teach at least 300 people with our environmental education workshops.
  • Of workshop attendees 100 will signup to monitor forest fire incidence where they live, and submit a monthly report for 6 months.

To go further, check out these objective writing tips: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-funding/tools-for-applying/writing-smart-objectives.html

Activities

The next step is thinking of your project activities, which are the list of actions, measures and tasks you need to take in order to fulfill your objectives. You can assign a team or person for each activity or type of activity ( for instance logistics, communications, education activities etc.).

Then assign a budget per activity. Finally remember to measure the outcomes of your activities through a series of clear indicators, these can be as simple as counting how many people attended an event or as complex as measuring deforestation rates in a community.

For example, Activities can be: -‘Distribute environmental education kits amongst 100 Children.’
-‘Conduct a workshop with 50 local women to present and distribute sustainable menstrual health materials.’

Timelines

Once you have your objectives, and activities you can start thinking about your timelines, since their essential to any project management. There are different schools in organizing project calendars, but the most basic is a horizontal timeline, it will give you, your teammates, and potential donors an idea of the deadlines, and deliverables of the project, this timeline can be divided by months, weeks or days according to the duration of your project. These timelines have to illustrate deliverables, phases of your project and milestones that you might have set as objectives.

Remember to be realistic with your timelines, and to embrace uncertainty as real life tends to complicate calendars. Another type of time and project management tool is called a work plan or GANTT chart, which you can discover more about here.

Fundraising Tools

Non-profit projects, programs or organisations use different strategies to raise funds, that they then reinvests in projects, salaries, and operational costs. Fundraising can be done in different ways for instance by calling upon individual donors, by applying for grants with larger foundations, and by receiving donations from businesses or corporations.

You might find two types of funds, those funds that are restricted to an activity or goal set out by the funder, and unrestricted funds which you can use as you want within your organisation.

To build your fundraising strategy you must go beyond just asking for money, and can use the following tools:

Profile and map out potential individual donors: You can start small, by a sking your family and friends, you have surely donated at other organizations in the past years.

Think about your funding timelines: Will you ask for funds annually? Host fundraising events? Establish partnerships, or ask for in-kind donations (materials, computers, etc) when needs arise.

Grants: A grant is funding provided for a specific set of time to support a program or activity. Grants are usually set out by actors such as governments, cooperation agencies, private foundations, and corporations. To apply for a grant, you must thoroughly read the requirements and check if the funder aligns with your organisation’s values. Most grants require similar information that you can compile in advance like:

  • Your organization’s mission statement. (See Module 16)
  • An outline of the needs you identified. (See Module 13)
  • A description of the beneficiaries of your idea (be it people, a place or an ecosystem).
  • Your project strategy or plan (general outline of you goals and activities) and how these will create change.
  • Legal information about your or your organisation if it exists.
  • Proof of your experience like contracts or letters of recommendation from previous partners.
  • A short paragraph on how you see your idea grow in the future.
  • Your project budget and expenses.
  • How you plan to measure your project’s impact.

Proposals and Concept Notes: Another way to get funding when no specific grant format is set is to submit a proposal. This thorough document presents your organization, your team, your idea, the background to the issue you aim to address and how you intend to do that, as well as your budget. Donors receive many proposals so make sure yours is well written and reviewed. Check out this template: http://www.tools4dev.org/resources/proposal-template/

A concept note is the shorter version of a proposal ( 2 to 3 pages), it includes an overview, an outline of the project context, proposed objectives and results and how you expect to measure them as well as a budget overview. Here you can find more information on how to write your proof of concept. Crowdsourcing is always an alternative to develop your project, collaborative efforts to fund your project can promote engagement and participation from different stakeholders. However, depending on the scale you have defined, you may need a fundraising plan. The Commons Social Change Library, has a Fundraising Strategy and Planning step by step that you can follow if that is the case.

*Have the figures clear: Budgets are crucial, regardless of what initiative you are beginning. It’s important to be able to clearly state and explain your expected expenses and anticipated sources of income. As the founder or program director, you must also know how much it will cost to run your project or idea. We suggest dedicating time to writing a budget for your project. Use this template to help you begin.

Donor stewardship, is the process of keeping and maintaining a good relationship with your donors. This implies open and regular communication to thank them and give them feedback on how your project is doing, and how their funds are being put to a good use. You can thank your donors through calls, emails, letters, social media posts or in your project or organization public reports.

Supporting fellowships and opportunities: There are many global competitions or fellowships that may help you get an initial round of start up funding, or that could connect you with networks that lead to potential donors or investors.

Research organizations and programs such as Echoing Green, Ashoka, MIT Climate Colab, Pollination Project, One Young World, Google for Startups SDG Accelerator, Dalai Lama Fellows Program for Emerging Leaders, Charity Entrepreneurship Incubation Program, SDGs & Her Competition, British Council Global Innovation Challenge, Global Center on Adaptation Young Leaders Program, Commonwealth Foundation Grant Programme for Civil Society Organisations, Hertog Foundation Weekend Seminars for Students and Young professionals, Global Health Corps Fellowship 2020 for Young Health Leaders, IIASA Young Scientists Program for Young Researchers, Hansen Leadership Institute International Program for Young Scholars, Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge Students and Recent graduates, SET Award 2020 for Innovators in the Energy Transition, U.S. Department of State’s TechWomen Program for Emerging Leaders, U.S. Department of State’s TechGirls Program for Young Women from the US, Central Asia and MENA.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

We have just covered project management from the early stages perspective. Once a project has launched you need to keep all these perspectives in mind, but above all remember that the project is a learning cycle, which is fed by the experiences and knowledge that other people can bring. Remember to write down, evaluate and measure all your results and the lessons you might learn.

CHANGEMAKER CHALLENGE

  • Beginner: Draw a ‘problem tree’ around the environmental issue you care about. Focus on researching all the possible causes or ‘roots’ of the problem.
  • Intermediate: With the lessons from this module sit down and try to write a concept note about your ideal project or organisation. Build from that ideal concept note, and thinka about the ways you could achieve that.
  • Advanced: Research all the grants and opportunities listed in this module, build a table out of this research, and determine whether you, your organisation or project can apply for their funding. Think about how mature your organization is, if your profile applies, and what are the requirements in each funding opportunity, and then work to see if you can meet these requirements. If any opportunities seem achievable, dare to launch your project!

OPTIONAL MATERIALS

REFLECTION CORNER

After watching the module’s video, reflect on the following questions:

  • What can you learn from Ruramiso’s story?
  • Think about the project you wish to develop. What resources do you need to begin and which are currently available to you? Which do you need to find or create?
  • Develop a timeline for your project. What needs to happen first?What activities and timeline would you develop to make it happen?
  • How will you know if your initiative is successful?

FACILITATOR

RURAMISO MASHUMBA
FOUNDER MNANDI AFRICA
ZIMBABWE

Ruramiso is a young farmer that has been recognized by the WIA 54 Award. She is the vice chairperson of the youth ambassadors of the Southern African confederation of Agriculture Unions. She is the founder of Mnandi Africa an organization that helps rural woman combat poverty and malnutrition by empowering and equipping women with skills and knowledge in sustainable agriculture. She has won the iconic African award for farming and agriculture. She also won the JCI top 10 young people award in 2019. She love riding motorcycles.