10 things you should take into account when you design a project

©Zen Chung
©Zen Chung

Designing an intercultural project in the field of youth can be compared to a journey: you need to decide your destination, find your travel companions, agree on a route together, select what you will bring along, pack your rucksack, arrange logistics, raise funds for the expenditures…all these tasks seem quite challenging, but if they are well-planned the outcomes can be particularly rewarding.

There are two ways to approach the phase of project design. The first one is to write a project application alone, in isolation, in a hurry, under pressure and just aiming at obtaining the grant. This is not the healthiest approach, even if it is possible to be successful. The second one is to consider project design as a participatory process, involving all possible stakeholders in the development of the ideas and investing together time, competences and energy. This approach can be lengthy, demanding, time-consuming, but it will allow the partnership to create a solid foundation upon which building the future project. Here below is a list of the 10 most relevant elements to take into account in the phase of project design.

1. Avoid working in a hurry

Depending on the application form and on the grant requested, writing a project can take quite a long time. Whenever possible, it is advisable to start the process around one more before the deadline (or even earlier), in order to avoid time pressure, to provide enough time to partners to contribute and to be able to review carefully all the sections of the application before submitting it.

2. Create a diverse and solid partnership

Partners should be invited to join a project for the added value that they can bring to the consortium. They can offer expertise, fresh ideas, young activists and trainers, interesting methods, a specific cultural perspective, logistic contributions and previous experience. A well-balanced partnership gives each member a way to contribute, share and learn.

3. Define roles clearly

Once the partnership is established, it is important to define precise roles for each partner. A group of partners can be involved in the project design phase, other partners can play a more active role after the project approval (providing methods, contents and trainers, helping manage the financial tasks, hosting one or more activities, etc). To avoid misunderstandings, roles and responsibilities should be clearly understood starting from the project design phase.

4. Do not impose ideas, rather develop them together

This point is strictly related to the previous one. It might happen that, even if roles are equally distributed, the applicant tends to take more tasks, imposing its way to the consortium and leaving to the other partners limited opportunities to play their roles. This approach should be avoided: the project is a space for partners to develop new skills, therefore they should be provided with time and chances to learn and expand their capacity.

5. Take your time to define aims and objectives

At the beginning of the project design phase, defining “why” you want to create a project is much more important than deciding “what” you want to do. It is essential to sit down around a table (real or virtual) and take your time to talk about this point with the partners. There should be no misunderstanding on the aims and objectives of the initiative: if you do not define this step with attention, more mistakes and obstacles will appear along with the following phases.

6. Do not fall in love with an idea

If you accept to proceed in a participatory way, you should also put up with the fact that partners can improve, change or even replace your ideas, methods, contents, objectives with more effective contributions. Therefore, be ready to change your original idea if it is considered not feasible or unrealistic by the majority.

7. Be creative (and, possibly, innovative)

You do not have to be creative just for the sake of it. If you work in the youth work sector, you will need to attract young people with innovative, inclusive, interactive ideas through which they can learn new things on human rights, intercultural dialogue, environmental protection, social inclusion…Use the power of non-formal education and combine it with the most popular formats: digital tools, videogames, cinema, music, sport.

8. Arrange the logistic dimension carefully

When designing a project, it is essential to ensure comfortable accommodation, a functional working room for the activities, clear instructions for participants, equipment and educational material for the trainers. Poor logistics can hamper considerably the quality of a project, even if this is based on a valuable idea.

9. Invest time in designing the budget

Just like in other professional areas, numbers scare people. This is not a good reason to approach the task of design the project of your project in a careless and hasty way. On the contrary, if you are not familiar with Excel tables and figures, you can obtain support from more experienced partners and invest time in providing a thorough financial plan. You will avoid many headaches during the final financial report.

10. Find a meaningful and catchy title

Last but not least: do not underestimate the power of a catchy title. A meaningful name for your project, possibly including an acronym, can attract the evaluators’ attention. Do not forget that they read hundreds of projects, so if they find a good one, matched with a powerful title, they can reward it with extra score.

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