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Situational Analysis

Learn how to choose between the many crowdfunding platforms to maximise your success.

Tools for project planning in community development

Online Course Module 1 of 9

Introduction to project planning for community development

This is Module 1 of our free online course, 'Tools for Project Planning in Community Development'. To visit the course homepage, click here.

Guaranteeing that your work is both impactful and sustainable requires investment in the planning and design process. Although the development of programs can vary in time and scope and is highly dependent upon the complexity of the problem and context, there are a number of underlying principles that hold true for all project designs. 

We cannot emphasise enough the importance of being methodical in your approach to project planning. Whilst it may be frustrating, and you feel like you want to put your great idea into practice straight away, it is essential to first take a step back and plan methodically. Follow the steps outlined in this course one after the other to give your great idea the best chance of turning into a successful project.

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This course is part of our free online learning centre for community development workers.

Who should be involved in the planning process?

When you start planning, the best approach is to work through your project planning and design as a team, including as many stakeholders as possible. This includes beneficiaries. Be prepared to spend some time working together as a group, so that you can brainstorm ideas in a cooperative manner. Not only will the group present an array of ideas, but the diversity of different perspectives will lead to informative discussions and a broader perspective.

The advantages of thorough and methodical planning

When you start planning, the best approach is to work through your project planning and design as a team, including as many stakeholders as possible. This includes beneficiaries. Be prepared to spend some time working together as a group, so that you can brainstorm ideas in a cooperative manner. Not only will the group present an array of ideas, but the diversity of different perspectives will lead to informative discussions and a broader perspective.

Course overview

This course will provide an overview of some of the most important tools and resources to facilitate discussion amongst your planning team. Throughout the course, we will introduce key planning advice, as well as specific frameworks and ready-to-use models in the context of participatory design that your organisation may want to use to increase the impact of its work. 

Most organisations who use these tools adapt them to meet their needs. Follow this course with your own goals and processes in mind so that you can begin thinking about shaping the tools or mixing-and-matching them to meet your specific needs.

Here you can download Resource 1 - A Checklist for Effective Project Planning. Use this resource as a guide when you are planning and designing your own project to ensure you have completed every step.

Download Resource

organisational priorities into your work, attempting to change the objectives or activities of your project to make it more relevant to their donors or mission. 

 

This may impact the effectiveness of your project and how well you can support local beneficiaries. It is up to you, the grassroots implementers, to push back with the reality of how the design effects local communities. Try to steer clear of top-down influences by using your local knowledge to develop plans that maximise benefits to the community with value for time, money and resources. For more information on this topic, check out our ‘Accountability in Community Development’ article which you can find here.

If you are receiving support from an outside funder or international donor, be aware that despite (sometimes) good intentions, donors may seek to impact your project design by  favouring certain  types of projects.  They may seek to incorporate their  own

Helpful Hint

Before you start, a quick word on sustainability

 

A successful project is one that not only achieves its stated goals, but also continues to function towards these goals once the original impetus and source of support withdraws.

Thinking about sustainability when you are planning and designing your work ensures for greater success. The communities you work with will be left with programs that facilitate the change they themselves wanted. They will take ownership of the project and will keep improving and adjusting it to their needs long after your organisation is gone.

For a project to start, people have to believe in a tangible and immediate benefit from their participation. For it to continue, they have to see that their work is making an impact. 

Helpful Hint

Helpful Hint

If you are promoting a practice that will not survive once you take away the incentive or your support, then it is not a sustainable project.

Sustainability is a term that can mean a variety of things:

 

  • Environmental considerations

  • Education and training

  • Continued operational support 

  • Long-term financial viability

  • Facilitating hand-over through adequate involvement of the community

  • The ability for the local community to repair or maintain any required equipment

Ultimately, the hope should always be self-sufficiency for the communities you work with, where beneficiaries are trained to continue programs or facilitate the same intervention without your continued involvement. 

Now that you have a basic understanding of why thorough project planning is important, it’s time to begin our planning process. The first step is to examine your project’s context through a situational analysis which we will explore in Module 2.

Download this module as a pdf to print and use as a guide when planning local community development projects.
Or download the full Project Planning Handbook here.

Move on to:

Situational Analysis

Learn how to analyse the context of your project to better understand the needs of your community.

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