October 16, 2008

The Effective project proposal Part I

Hello guys, sorry for delaying this post. I promised last July to write this article, but I've been busy since that month, I almost forgot about this promise. Again, I'm sorry. But anyway, here's the article I promised to share to you.

This is the first part of your guide to write a very powerful project proposal But first, we have to define what exactly a project proposal is.

A project proposal is written, to make an offer and to try to convince a supervisor or a future customer to accept it. In a project proposal you state that, in exchange for time and/or money, you will give them something that they want (an analysis of a procedure, for example), make something they desire (a prototype of a new product), or do something they wish to have done (redesign an existing structure). In other words, you are asking a decision-maker to invest a resource, (time or money or both), so that the project you propose can be completed, and your readers, whether a future supervisor within your own organization, or your client for your project, will invest their resources carefully. Therefore, it is crucial that your proposal answers questions your readers may have about what you propose to them.

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The purpose of a project proposal is in the first place to mobilize and generate resources (funds, goods, solidarity networks, etc.). Secondly, a project document is the basis for project implementation. People will regularly consult the document in the future to review plans, budgets, time schedules, and, agreements.

Systematizing the information for the project proposal

During the first three phases of the project cycle, many people are involved in data gathering and planning sessions. A lot of information is compiled in notebooks and diaries; maps diagrams and workshop results are drawn on craft paper; pictures are taken; feasibility studies are conducted and a budget is prepared. The first question now is how to select and systematize the information that should be included in the document. The following steps might guide you:

Step 1: organize a workshop-type meeting with people who are tasked to write the document, and those who were involved in conducting the situational analysis, in the project conceptualization and planning.

Step 2: put the work sheet on a blackboard or on the wall. Be sure that you have enough space to see all columns in one glance. This will facilitate the cross-checking to make the column consistent with the other ones.

Step 3: start with writing down the project components and corresponding activities.

Step 4: continue with filling out, the columns at the right side components and activities should all be reflected in the required inputs and corresponding budget. Add time frame and responsible people. This information is the result of the project planning sessions.

Step 5: continue with the columns at the left side; formulate each component or project activity a specific objective and then one general objective. Be sure that the objectives are SMART.

Step 6: the column on “solution/strategy” refers to the information you gathered during the project conceptualization phase. Write down why the people in the community selected these project activities. How do people think that the selected project activities will benefit them? How do the solutions fit in the citizenry-based and development-oriented framework?

Step 7: The last column to the left is the “rationale” and the most difficult one. Here, you will write down the information that justifies the selected intervention. Explain what the main problems and concerns that were identified by the community members. Explain the underlying causes and consequences of the problems. Include only those problems and concerns that will be addressed by the project.

Step 8: if you have diagrams, maps, a seasonal calendar and a problem tree, include these in the proposal, since they facilitate the presentation of information. It is much shorter and more effective in transferring information than when it is just text.

Step 9: feasibility studies, community profiles, etc. can be kept in the appendices.

Step 10: when you have selected all relevant information, you can now start to write the first draft. Sometimes, Funding Agencies request to follow their format. If no format is available, the following can be used:

Cover Page with identifying data
1- Rationale: problem description
2- Description of selected solution/strategy; criteria used for selection
3- Project objectives: general and specific objectives
4- Project components and/or activities
5- Project management(including the community’s capacity)
6- Monitoring and evaluation plan
7- Project continuity
8- Risks/opportunities
9- Work plan
10- Budget requirements
11- Appendices: community profile, feasibility study

Next step: The Do’s and Don’ts of writing an effective project proposal