Unfortunately, Many Organisations Seem To Be Focused On Activities Rather Than Positive Change.
‘What we do’ takes up a lot of our energy, and sometimes, as a result, we lose sight of the destination.
Many times people have asked me to examine their potential project ideas – and, so often, these are all activities, or just one action. For example, ‘We plan to set up a home for street children’ or ‘We will raise awareness about contraceptive use among Commercial Sex Workers’.
Now, there's nothing wrong with activities – of course not. But none of these defines a problem to be solved or describes a positive situation as the end result. Thinking only in terms of activities, however 'good' or 'right' they may be, can have a negative effect on the success of any project plan or proposal.When we approach our project planning in this way we face some challenges. These can include:
Being unable to justify the proposal to the donor
Working backwards from activities to explaining the problem can be hard work; and the logic is often difficult to justify. (And, sometimes the logic just isn't there.) It's much easier to start with the problem and select the activity – if it is appropriate – at the proper stage of project planning.
Demonstrating poor strategic thinking
The development of a proposal that is based around activities – even if we can successfully backtrack to identifying a problem – will never be as convincing as one developed around the problem itself - without bias to one particular solution.
Not focusing on target groups' real needs and issues
When we talk about 'doing', we are focused on ourselves - what WE do, how WE work. However, when we focus on solving a development problem, we turn our attention fully to the project beneficiaries - what THEY consider important, what THEY perceive as the issues they face.
A proposal developed from a problem-solving approach is convincing. One that has been developed to justify an activity will always ‘ring false’.
The activity in mind, too, may not be the most effective one to create the desired result. From habit, we may be continuing to use methods that bring about only partial or temporary success - and overlooking better ways to serve our beneficiaries.
You may be missing other methods that can get better results or could supplement your core activities to ensure success.
Starting from a predetermined activity prevents us from seeing other, more effective, or more creative ways to address the problem.
Even if, at the end of the process, your solution is still the same activity you had in mind at the beginning, by following the stages of Results-Based Management and Logical Framework Approach for project planning and proposal development as, you will:
- Be better able to justify your proposed solution.
- Understand better how what you will do will bring about the positive change you promise to deliver
Finally, let me add a note to 'realists'. A lot of people dismiss certain solutions before they even start.
‘We can't do it’ – ‘We don't have the skills’ – ‘It will cost too much’ ... the concept of limited capacity to deliver stunts their thinking before they even begin. There is no such thing as 'cannot be done' – if the problem is worth solving, and if the proposed solution makes sense, it can always be done.
There will always be donors who will support sound ideas that align with their development goals.