From project idea to project proposal
By definition, projects contribute to changing particular identified problems or issues, and respond to specific identified needs. Given the dimensions of the problems affecting migrants and society at large in countries of origin, transit and destination, addressing them with a single project would not be realistic. The international community, represented by the EU and the UN system, have developed a broad vision concerning the Migration-Development nexus. Based on this vision, guidelines have been developed with relevant specific objectives and outputs for each of the four priorities of the EC-UN Joint Migration & Development Initiative summarized in the Thematic Areas of this call: Migrant Capacities, Migrant Communities, Migrant Remittances and Migrant Rights. Each project should play an important role in addressing these broad issues and related objectives, taking its place as one brick in a wall rather than attempting to be the entire wall itself.
To move from your initial project idea linked to one or more of the thematic windows to a full project proposal, important planning and analyzing tasks described in this section lie ahead of you. They represent the steps from Identification to Proposal Preparation of the Project Cycle.
An overview of the project development process is illustrated in the chart below. It outlines the steps to follow and useful tools for each step. In the following we will guide you through this process step-by-step. For this purpose you can also download the full text of this section in PDF format.
If you are familiar with project design you can also simply click on one of the boxes or headings below to take you directly to the specific section you want to re-visit.
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From project idea…
Do you have a great project idea based on a demand from the community or observations and it fits into the thematic areas of this grant? Maybe the objective of the call fits your organisation’s mission but you do not have a clear project idea yet. Read through the illustrative interventions in the thematic areas. You could also start with the problem analysis by reformulating the objective you are interested in into a problem (i.e. transpose it into a negative statement) and identifying the problems related to it by asking why this problem exists, what are the causes? Do not forget to start again from the top with stakeholder analysis and partner identification once you have a project idea in mind!
In any case, you need to be aware that the project idea is just the first stage in the project cycle. Be sure to take enough time for a thorough analysis and the planning phase in order to not only make your application a success but more importantly the project you propose to undertake!
…to successful implementation
Apart from proper planning, what makes a project a success is that it
- addresses real problems;
- with realistic objectives and activities;
- risks to the project outcome are properly evaluated and taken into account;
- your consortium has sufficient capacity to implement and manage the project;
- and it leads to sustainable/long-term results.
The Logical Framework Approach
The Logical Framework Approach is a set of tools used by many organisations and donors today to ensure that all of these factors are taken into account while designing a project. It is actually a set of different tools that help you to formulate your ideas in a clear and standardised way.
Please note: while it is NOT necessary to submit the documents we suggest to prepare during the project analysis phase (stakeholder analysis, problem and objective trees) the related tasks are essential to planning a sound project.
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Steps to success
Regardless of the different backgrounds and starting points of the applicants of this call, in order to arrive at a professional and successful project proposal it is important to do a thorough analysis first of the current situation, the problems and people/organisations touched by the problem and the proposed project, and of their needs. Based on this analysis you define your project: its objectives and methodology or strategy you propose in order to meet them, defining your activities.
In the Planning Phase the conclusions of the analysis phase are translated into a practical plan: activities are defined and planned and the budget structured. Throughout the analysis and planning phase, you should use a participatory approach, including important stakeholders at various levels.
I. Preparatory steps
It is essential to carefully study the guidelines and discuss them with peers assisting in the project design, to more thoroughly understand donor guidelines and assure coverage of all the points.
The guidelines on 'How to Apply' to this Call for Proposals give you an indication of what the EU/UN is looking for in a project and if your organisation is eligible to apply under this Call.
The thematic areas spell out the objectives and outputs this Call for Proposals is looking to achieve and give examples of project ideas for each objective under the heading “Illustrative Interventions”.
Although it might change at a later stage, it is important to identify early on a person responsible for the process and final outcome, i.e. the project proposal, working with a small dedicated team, if possible. At the same time it is important to keep people both within and outside of your organisation who will be involved in implementation also involved in the analysis and planning process and value their opinions.
Including your colleagues, regardless of their position in the organization, not only helps to seek diverse ideas in identification of needs, problems and solutions but is also crucial for organizational learning and division of labor at a later stage. Ideas that might seem irrelevant at first might lead to other ideas and discussions, and lead to creative problem solving as the work progresses.
A brain-storming session with the team and possibly other important stakeholders is important to collect initial thoughts and problems relevant to the call. Potential project ideas can be discussed as well as individuals/organisations which might be interested in the issue and might become project partners.
In brainstorming, ask yourselves the following questions to clarify your project idea. Your initial thoughts on these questions will form the basis of a more in-depth analysis on all of these points.
- Why is the project carried out (i.e. in answer to what need/problem)?
- How would the ideal situation look like and what is the project expected to achieve (i.e. what are its objectives and expected immaterial results and outputs in terms of services/goods)?
- How is the project going to achieve it (i.e. which activities, which methodologies are used)?
- Which external factors are crucial for its success (i.e. which assumptions do we have, what are the preconditions for our activities?)?
- Where to find the information required assessing the success of the project (i.e. ways to measure the results)?
- Which means are required (in terms of human and other resources)?
- How much will the project cost (i.e. what is the budget)?
Once you have a clearer idea about your potential project, it is time to identify other non-profit legal organisations which might be interested in becoming your partners in this project.
Maybe you already have partners in mind? Maybe you also identify suitable partners while doing your stakeholder analysis or needs assessment, for example when you do an internet search on the problem you want to address or through one of the NGO sites we list in our Links section (link).
Of course it is best if your potential partners are involved from the beginning in the analysis and planning process, maybe through a participatory workshop, if feasible (see How to run a workshop). Also discuss in due time annexes D.-F. required for your application: all partners need to submit a partnership agreement, their legal statutes and financial accounts!
Make sure you early on address the question of who is doing what in order not to have dispute later on which could jeopardise your application. Make sure that tasks are understood, balanced among group members and everyone involved has a clear understanding of what to do, and by when. In working with partners from other countries be mindful of cultural differences: keep in mind that each culture functions at its own pace and understanding of time! Remember that the donor requires a deadline and all the documents should be submitted prior to this deadline.
Each partner should have ONE person responsible for preparing the proposal, coordinating the input of their organisation, and ONE person from the main partner has to have the overall responsibility that the application is submitted in time and is good quality. It is advisable to enter into an agreement with your the partners on these points before sending off the application in order to ensure a smooth implementation should your proposal be chosen.
II. Analysis steps
As soon as you have a rough idea of the project design it is time to identify the important stakeholders: these include the beneficiaries of your project, your partners and donors, but also people/organisations big and small, private and public, who are potentially affected by your project and its outcome.
Stakeholders could be potentially helpful as supporters (maybe because you can learn from their experience in similar projects or because they can give political support), or endangering a smooth project implementation as opponents. These are people/organisations who might feel threatened by your project or its outcome: you can often work with them explaining your project idea for them to support you or at least not present any obstacles. Including them early on in the planning process of the project and keeping them informed throughout implementation, maybe even as part of a decision making or advisory group could address the issue in a constructive manner.
Many of your important stakeholders will come to your mind immediately, others you can identify in brainstorming with your colleagues and partners. Identify all the people, groups and institutions that will affect or be affected by your project and list them.
Questions you should ask yourselves:
- Whose views and experience are relevant for the smooth implementation of the project?
- Who takes decisions about the project and who will (have to) act on these decisions?
- Who has a right to be involved?
- Whose active support is important?
- Who is likely to feel threatened?
Once you have listed these stakeholders you should analyse their:
- Will they directly or indirectly benefit from the project? How?
- Which changes might it require from them?
- Could they feel threatened by the project?
- Potential for cooperation or conflict: Based on their interests, is it likely that they will be interested in cooperation or might conflicting interests or perceptions lead to conflict?
- In which directions might they want to steer the project activities/results?
- Potential strategies for obtaining support or reducing obstacles: Consider the kinds of things that you could do to get a stakeholder support and reduce opposition. Consider how you might approach each of the stakeholders.
- What kind of information will they need?
- How important is it to involve the stakeholder in the planning process?
- Are there other groups or individuals that might influence the stakeholder to support your initiative?
- Power or impact: What is their power to and how could they influence the project implementation or sustainability?
- Are decisions/actions by this stakeholder likely to have a high, low or medium impact on your project, its outcome or impact?
- Importance and relevance: The effects on and thoughts of your target group will be more relevant to you than those of a stakeholder only slightly touched by your project activities. However, some stakeholders whose opinion you would not normally give much importance to might be very important to take into account because of their power, i.e. the big impact their actions/attitudes could have on the project.
- Strengths and weaknesses: What are the strengths of your potential supporters and the weaknesses of your opponents?
- Proposed role in the project: You have to decide which role you want to give each stakeholder in the project: from very active, as in a partnership, to just keeping them informed of project progress. This will also depend on the analysis of the points above.
For better overview you can create a table such as the following:
Stakeholder Interest in project Impact Potential strategies for obtaining support or reducing obstacles Comments Ministry of Labor - Regulate migration and labor flows
- Training for government workers
High - MoU outlining partnership and training to be provided
- Invitation to meetings, planning sessions
e.g. contact point name; might change after elections
Make sure that you continuously revise and update the stakeholder analysis throughout the analysis and planning phase as you learn more about your project and become more specific!
Keep your stakeholders in mind (or, if possible, let the most important ones take part!) in doing all of the following analysis steps.
No matter how experienced an organization is, the starting point of each project should be based on a needs assessment and situation analysis. Many development projects fail to reach their objectives due to the lack of needs assessment conducted prior to project design.
Therefore, it is essential to have any project cycle begin with a well-timed assessment to understand:
- The needs of your target group: The following document offers a good description of the tools you can use to collect the relevant information on problems that exist: Information: its collection and use throughout the Project Cycle. There are many problems you will not be able to tackle all, so concentrate your limited time and resources on relevant information you can get in time. The methodology you choose should not only reflect the resources available to you but also be culturally appropriate. Community involvement is especially important during the needs analysis as your beneficiaries possess knowledge that experts don’t have, and need to feel the ownership of the process to ensure a lasting impact after this project is over. Keep in mind that with a needs assessment you automatically also raise expectations: explain what you are doing and follow up!
- Donor priorities in the target country: You already carefully studied the guidelines on how to apply and the thematic areas in the preparatory phase. Also find out about the development priorities of your country: they reflect a need identified on country level.
- Your organisational interest and capacities and those of your partners: Take into account your mission statement, experience and resources. The project you propose should also benefit your organisation and be in line with its mission. Keep in mind that you cannot know it all and should use the knowledge of relevant stakeholders you identified, especially your target group, in order to meet a real need and not just a felt need you maybe only assume from your observations.
More on the difference between real and felt needs:
A felt need could be based on news, observations, discussions among community members or authorities, but is lacking deeper research on facts and discussions with all relevant stakeholders. Felt needs are important starting points to formulate an idea and identify a problem, but should not be the sole basis for any project proposal.
A real need is a commonly shared problem agreed upon by most stakeholders.
You should also analyse the current situation and development in the area where you want to implement the project.
The following external influences will shape your project design:
- government policy,
- social life and cultural context,
- human and social capital,
- and the environment.
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It is essential to analyze whether your project would have any negative effect in one of these aspects of the community life or one of these elements would be effecting your project implementation and outcomes.
The analysis should also take into account any prior, ongoing or planned projects tackling the same or similar needs.
The way you define your problem determines the dimensions of your solutions, so it is important that the problem definition is clearly stated.
You now need to identify the major need, the major problem faced by the beneficiaries which you can realistically tackle within in the time and budget frame and your organisation’s capacities: THIS is your starter problem. Now brainstorm other related problems. Again you can benefit from taking a participatory approach: your beneficiaries know their problems and answers to these questions best.
You can develop a problem tree which shows the causes and effects of problems and makes their hierarchy visible.
How to develop a problem tree
Starting from your starter problem ask yourselves “Why?” / “What causes this problem?” For each of your answers ask again: “But why?. E.g. migrants often work in jobs not matching their qualifications. “Why?” Answer 1: Because they were not aware that there are job shortages in their area of expertise in the country of destination, etc. “But why were they not aware?” Answer: Because they had no access to this information. “But why?” Answers: e.g. there is no pre-departure information for migrants; OR, they have no access to that information because they largely come from rural areas; OR, they have no internet access and they do not speak the language, etc.
Problems which are directly causing the starter problem are placed below, problems which are direct effects of the starter problem are placed above it and are linked with arrows. If it is neither a cause nor an effect it goes on the same level: it is another problem. In the end review if your problem tree is logical.
For further explanations and an example see: EuropeAid Project Cycle Management Guidelines (p67f).
Following the identification of the problem(s), setting your overall and specific objectives is a crucial point in the design process which fundamentally affects the other phases.
You can transform the problems you identified during the problem analysis into potential objectives of your project by rephrasing the negative statements into positive ones: e.g. the problem of migrants not having access to information can be transformed into the objective “provide migrants with information”. Your problem tree has now been transformed into an “objectives tree”. View an example of an Objective Tree.
From your objectives tree you determine the overall objective, which should match the objectives of the thematic windows of this call – equalling the broader, longer-term impact your project will contribute to.
Possible specific objective(s) – the outcome at the end of your project – you can find in your objectives tree on the level below the overall objective.
Below the specific objective(s) you see the results, i.e. the specific outputs your project is expected to have in order to realise your specific objective. This is your results chain.
Again: have a look if the tree appears realistic and coherent. If necessary, revise the statements, add new objectives which are relevant and necessary to achieve the next level objective or delete objectives which are not suitable or necessary.
Considering various strategies to reach the objectives you chose to tackle, and choosing the most appropriate and feasible strategy is essential for the success of a project.
Ask yourselves the following questions about the methodology you choose:
- How is it innovative?
- What is the added value of the project to the current solutions on hand to address the problem?
- Is it feasible taking into account our consortium’s expertise and resources?
- Is it feasible within the time frame given by the call?
- Is it desirable given the implications for our target group and society at large?
- Does it match our mission, the priorities of our most important stakeholders and the objectives of the call?
- Is it culturally sensitive and is the political environment suitable for such action?
- Is it gender sensitive?
- Which effects does it have on the environment?
- Is it sustainable?
More on sustainability:
Sustainability refers to the continuation of benefits from a project after the project is finalised.
As indicated at the beginning of this document, your project is a step in a series of actions toward a larger goal and, if granted, continuation of funding is not guaranteed by the EC/UN Migration & Development Initiative. Therefore, sustainability of your action should carefully be thought through and reflected in your proposal as well.
Some examples of how a project can become more sustainable:
- by follow-up projects based on best practices of this project,
- fitting it into national policy frameworks,
- a participatory design involving important stakeholders from the beginning (ensuring their ownership and thus making it more likely that they will continue the activities started under the project),
- integration into local structures and administrative systems, or
- skill development/training.
In addition to your prior analyses you will now also have to think about possible risks: external factors that could potentially jeopardise your project and are beyond the control of the project management, or which may affect the projects’ implementation and long-term sustainability.
It is not clear if the conditions will develop, but you need to make a thorough analysis of them in order to think about strategies of how to minimise the possibility of them occurring or to mitigate their effects: maybe another activity should be included to address them? Or another strategy has to be chosen.
Don’t be shy about possible risks: it has to be a realistic project – even if you don’t mention certain risks others might spot them and question your credibility OR, worse, the project will fail along the way with much time and money spent and damage your credibility even more.
Ask yourselves the following questions:
- Which external factors are likely to influence your project’s ability to achieve the expected outcomes within the expected timeframe?
- Which impact would they have on project progress and success?
- What is the likelihood that this risk will materialise? High, medium, low?
- Which risk management strategies do we have?
- Whose responsibility is it to address these risks?
If the risk is rather likely to occur, it will have a big impact and you do not find an appropriate risk management strategy, maybe you should not start the project and consider using another need as your starting point.
For better overview you can also make a table with the risks you identified:
Risk Potential Adverse Impact Risk Level Risk Management Strategy Responsibility Change in local government New government might stop supporting any initiatives started under the old government Medium Inclusion of representatives of all political parties in the preparation of the project Project team (one in each country)
III. Planning steps
When planning, be sure to determine your activity and its implementation by answering the questions
- For whom?
- And by whom?
When looking at the activities/actions you decide to carry out in order to arrive at the expected results keep in mind:
- Coherence: The different components of the project have to make sense when looking at the project as a whole. They have to complement each other.
- Consistency with your and the donors values: You should ask yourself the same questions as for the strategy analysis. For example gender and environmental sensitivity are important values for the EU and UN system. What are the values of your organisation?
- Effectiveness: The activities have to directly be related to the results you propose and effectively lead to reaching them.
You could think about making a pilot/pilots of the activities you suggest if they are innovative, so you can show that they actually lead to the expected results, before applying them on a broader level, either in the framework of the same project or a follow-up project.
Make sure you also include activities related to the visibility of your project and the EU/UN Migration & Development Initiative in general. This could be a start-up conference gathering all stakeholders or a final conference or publication sharing lessons learned under the auspices and with the logo of the donors, possibly including even a press conference. Make sure that any such activities are in line with the Visibility Guidelines for EU External Actions (April 2008) as well as the capacities of your consortium.
In order to have a better overview over your project you can visualise the linkages between the different levels of objectives and activities in the form of a tree.
This will also help you to make sure that each activity leads to or contributes to a result. Activities have to be included in your project for the purpose of results, not for the purpose of activities! It is possible, however, that activities might relate to more than one result. In this case, include the activity under the first relevant result or under the one where it fits best and make a reference to it under the other relevant results.
You can group your results in different components addressing different objectives of the call.
The prior analysis and planning steps form the basis for developing a Logical Framework Matrix (Logframe) for your project. The logframe condenses all project information into one document for effective planning, monitoring and evaluation.
The Logical Framework Matrix is required by the EC/UNDP to be included in your application as Annex A (see Logframe template provided.
The work plan is a consistent framework for planning, scheduling, monitoring, and controlling the project. In an overview it shows the sequence and relation between activities, estimating their duration and assigning responsibility. Make sure that the work plan is realistic and based on the project design you entered into the logframe.
Also the budget has to be consistent with the work plan and logframe.
Finally, before submitting your proposal, look at the Checklist and revisit the Review Criteria stated in the guidelines on how to apply for this call. These are the criteria the evaluation committee will take into account when deciding which projects to support and which ones are not funded under this call.