There are three things to consider:
- Capacity and Comparative Advantage
What do we mean by value? Well, what we are saying is that solving this problem would bring significant value to the country / region / project area. It's a global, regional or nationality priority - that means it will contribute towards the country achieving a development milestone (national development plan) or SDG (the impact we share with other development organisations). It has to be something decision makers consider to be important.
But can you do it? Have you got the capacity / skills to address the issue, or mobilise quickly. Can you do it better than others? What we are saying is quite simply. is this something you are good at? You might have some unique attributes - you may be perceived as neutral (great if working in conflict areas), or have some kind of reputation. Think MSF, Amnesty International, Save the Children, Red Cross - when you think of each, what unique attribute for each comes to mind?
Let's look at support. Let's start internally - is the issue / project in line with your own mandate, the reason your organisation exists? That's internal support. And what about relations with Government - can you count on their support and the support of other organisations? What about other decision-makers and those with power and resources? You may have the best project plan ever, but donors want to see those plans coordinated with the plans of others. (Think football: a team full of centre forwards isn't going to work.)
So if your project ticks all the boxes and you are taking it to the right donors, congratulations! You've got yourself a strategic priority.
But what if you are missing something? If support is absent, work on creating that - network, research, explore, and see how you can coordinate your efforts with others and build that support.
If you have support and the project offers value but your skills / capacity aren't up to it, don't give up too quickly. Partners can provide the capacity we may lack, and we can build our own. After all, the organisations that have been thriving a long time have changed over time - their purpose, relevance and capacity.
For example, Save the Children was started by two sisters in 1919 to provide food aid to children in Germany and Austria-Hungary after World War I. Austria-Hungary doesn't exist anymore - Save the Children does.
And what if you do have support and capacity, but the project doesn't offer any value? If the problem it addresses doesn't match national development goals or is seen as unimportant by donors? Drop it and find something that does.
Back soon with some reasons why project proposals fail.