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Help !!! How Do You Do Project Design?

Display Date: 12/15/11

Are you an IFAD consultant or staff member who has done project design?

If so, this is for you. This week I had a request for assistance from a consultant who will be part of a project design team, the main exercise that we used to call project formulation, for the first time. The person asked if I had any advice on how to do the work.  I did have a few ideas, but we would like to get ideas from as many people as possible.  Have you been on a project design team?  If so, please give us a hand and take a minute or two to share your insights and tips. 

The TOR is:

(a)   Using results of the poverty analysis study and based on the experiences of Phase 1, develop the project’s targeting strategy and proposals for poverty reduction. Prepare an annex for the Formulation Report on poverty, gender and targeting, Key File Table 4: Target Group Priority Needs and Project Proposals, and Tables showing how the project complies with requirements for gender-sensitive design and targeting.  The annex should include a table with indicators of child malnutritition levels in project districts.  Take account of IFAD guidelines such as KSF2: Poverty, social capital and targeting, and the IFAD gender checklist for project design.

(b)  Describe the key issues faced in Phase 1 and other similar programmes in women’s empowerment and draw up lessons for the future project.

(c)   Summarise the main barriers that constrain the empowerment of women and draw up a model Gender Strategy and Action Plan for mainstreaming gender concerns in each of the project component with specific gender-related actions, targets and milestones.

(d)  Based on experiences of Phase 1 identify key issues and lessons in knowledge management that need to be addressed to overcome bottlenecks; draw up a KM Strategy and Action Plan in line with IFAD’s KM Strategy for incorporation into the draft PIM.

(e)  Draw up proposals and terms of refererence for participatory evaluations of the impact of the project on the lives of women.

(f)    Based on experiences of Phase 1 and working in conjunction with M&E specialist of the mission, identify issues that needed to be addressed for engendering M&E system and/or draw up gender mainstreaming/impact indicators to be included in M&E templates/systems.

(g)  Assist the Economist in preparing cost table relevant to the activities identified.

(h)  Provide a working paper on the theme using IFAD’s format.

(i)    Carry out any other tasks demanded by the mission leader.

Comments
The first suggestion I would give you is to try to draft as much as possible of your report before you go. Not joking here.

Using all the secondary materials (poverty analysis study, supervision reports, MTR, PCR, State statistical information, case studies etc etc from and about the project area) that you have and your direct experience try to jot down the main points (or even start to write if you have time) for your:

Targeting Strategy
Key Issues and Lessons Learned
Gender Strategy (I don’t have a good model for a project level gender strategy)
KM Strategy (nor do I have a good model for a project level KM strategy, though there is one for AJKCP here on IFADAsia)
TORs (a process for ) participatory impact evaluation (this you could get from some other project I think)
Gender mainstreaming/impact indicators

By trying to begin to write the reports you will begin to understand what you don’t know, what information is missing and what you want to find out or verify. Once you realise what you need to find out, and you have an idea of how much time you will have, where and when, in the field and at home for report writing then you can begin to set a workplan to prioritise your activities and for how you are going to spend that time to get the information you need your time during the formulation process, who you need to meet, how you will meet people, where you need to go.

Naturally, for all of the above you should make sure that what you propose fits with the corresponding IFAD policy documents, without worrying too much about how close the fit is. What is more important is that you design approaches and activities that you feel will work in the current circumstances in the project area.

While you may want to include a gender adviser and a KM specialist in the project management teams, I would strongly advise you not to have separate components for either of these kinds of activities. As mentioned in the TOR, each component should have a KM dimension, and each component should do its work in a gender sensitive way. This means sitting with the respective specialist who is formulating the component and working out what they are designing and suggesting what they can do in their area to make sure that the component allows for people to get the knowledge they need, to share the knowledge they acquire and to benefit women and men in an equitable fashion. The key to making sure something happens in a project is certainly to make sure that it gets into the cost tables, and that in the component descriptions and PMU descriptions it says exactly who will do the activity that you have included.

I don’t think that I can add any more in terms of advice. And, I personally don’t know of any particular tools that might help you that you don’t already know about. The most important tool or resource that you will have is the one between your ears ;-) Project design is an art and it requires lots of creative thinking, but also the spirit of an artisan, building on all what you have learned to date and what others have learned and making that into a coherent set of activities and expenditures.

The very last thing I would add is that once you know what you want to propose – get it clear in your mind and then go back and cut it down by at least 50%, reduce by half your ambitions. It will be far better for the project to successfully achieve a modest amount (and then maybe go beyond targets, later) than to have a beautiful (but too ambitious) design and fall short or fail to implement it.

Posted on 12/15/11 10:39 AM.

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Dear Chase,

While reading the above piece, I thought to share few of the observation from my end.

Gender Strategy (I don’t have a good model for a project level gender strategy)
• I think you can review our Gender Strategy (In resource section of IN 1470), We feel our strategy is quite well designed for the project level implementation. Even ICO has appreciated the same.

KM Strategy (nor do I have a good model for a project level KM strategy, though there is one for AJKCP here on IFADAsia)
TORs (a process for ) participatory impact evaluation (this you could get from some other project I think)
• I think our step wise project level KM strategy document can become the part of PIM for the new project with some project specific modification.

Gender mainstreaming/impact indicators
• I think you can review our Gender Mainstreaming indicatiors (In resource section of IN 1470), using Logical Framework at the base our Gender Focal point has developed the same.

While you may want to include a gender adviser and a KM specialist in the project management teams, I would strongly advise you not to have separate components for either of these kinds of activities. As mentioned in the TOR, each component should have a KM dimension, and each component should do its work in a gender sensitive way. This means sitting with the respective specialist who is formulating the component and working out what they are designing and suggesting what they can do in their area to make sure that the component allows for people to get the knowledge they need, to share the knowledge they acquire and to benefit women and men in an equitable fashion. The key to making sure something happens in a project is certainly to make sure that it gets into the cost tables, and that in the component descriptions and PMU descriptions it says exactly who will do the activity that you have included.
• This very valid point that rather than having separate KM specialist and Gender specialist in the project Management Team and everyone should have KM dimension and Gender sensitive way of work but do you this will serve the purpose?

Posted on 12/15/11 4:29 PM in reply to Chase Palmeri.

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Hello,
To develop the project targeting strategy you need to, according to the TORs, use the results of the poverty analysis study and the experiences of Phase 1: a lot will depend on the information available, whether quantitative only, or also qualitative. E.g., your targeting strategy will need to decide whether to target "target groups" (who exactly are they? Is it clear, or not yet?) directly, or only indirectly. And this will depend very much on the type of activities that the project is supposed to promote; e.g. if you're thinking microenterprises, some of the very poor may not be in a position or may not even be interested to be microentrepreneurs themselves...But they could supply raw materials to microenterprises, and earn some cash that way. Whether this is "good enough" as a desired outcome depends on some many contextual variables. Which is why we need to interact with our "target groups", they should define what they mean by poverty, and what it is they propose to get out of it. If you do not have time to organise more participatory interaction with them and must rely on secondary data, all you can do is propose a process by which such information is channeled to the project implementers, who can then adjust the strategy and activities on that basis. The participatory evaluations (TOR point (e)) are part of such a process, but you need more - again, depends on what type of project we are talking about. Which is why it is not realistic for you to come up with a "model Gender Strategy" right now. You can propose some core principles to be respected (remember that the project service providers should be trained on these) and as implementation experience accumulates, you can adjust it. Look out for some general "rules of thumb" in the areas you are working in; e.g. women may mostly deal with food crops and men with cash crops so if you propose a "value chain" approach to food crop processing and marketing be aware of how men may take over the whole operation (which may not necessarily be a bad thing, but may not be your explicit objective). E.g., if women do not own any assets which they can use as a guarantee for a loan to buy small food processing equipment then their husbands may buy it in their name and ultimatley control it and possibly part of the economic benefits derived from it: not really our project objective of women's empowerment!
Best of luck and enjoy this in any case very interesting exercise!

Posted on 12/16/11 2:40 PM in reply to Dilipsing Bayas.

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Thanks Norman for these points and examples like the one of targetting and geneder roles in the case of value chain projects. Thanks also Dilip for alerting us to your Gender Strategy and indicators as well as your KM Strategy for reference. On your last point..."but do you think this will serve the purpose" I guess that what you mean is, is it enough to try to work on gender and KM within exisitng components. That's a good question. It could that you might get more done if you have a separate component, but then there might be the risk that the others - in say water, or livestock or rural finance components - don't bother with the KM or the gender sensitivity because ithey know that there are people working in connection with an entire component looking after that.

Posted on 12/16/11 6:53 PM in reply to Dilipsing Bayas.

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Dear Chase

The ToR appears to be for a gender and knowledge management specialist – who would work as a member of a project design team. Here are some suggestions (inserted after each section of the ToR below) for what this specialist could do to meet the terms of reference and potential sources of information. I will see if I can place some documents in the resources section of this website, including IFAD’s current (October 2010) guidelines for project design.

The TOR is as follows:

(a) Using results of the poverty analysis study and based on the experiences of Phase 1, develop the project’s targeting strategy and proposals for poverty reduction. Prepare an annex for the Formulation Report on poverty, gender and targeting, Key File Table 4: Target Group Priority Needs and Project Proposals, and Tables showing how the project complies with requirements for gender-sensitive design and targeting. The annex should include a table with indicators of child malnutrition levels in project districts. Take account of IFAD guidelines such as KSF2: Poverty, social capital and targeting, and the IFAD gender checklist for project design.

Suggestion: The Annex on Poverty Gender and Targeting should, according to IFAD’s project design guidelines, be between 4 to 6 pages in length. The contents could include: (i) levels of poverty (including comparison with national data); (ii) trends in poverty (change over time); (iii) causes of poverty (what are the factors that drive poverty and vulnerability); (iv) food security (including indicators of malnutrition); (v) access to services (including education, health, energy and communications); (vi) employment and migration; (v) gender issues (including access to employment, role of women in the home and agriculture (productive and reproductive work), degree of autonomy, empowerment and agency), and priorities for women; and (vi) overall priorities for target communities.

I will post possible formats for tables on IFAD requirements for gender sensitive design and on targeting in the resources section of this website. IFAD’ policy on targeting is available at: http://www.ifad.org/pub/policy/target/targeting_e.pdf

Further guidance is available in IFAD’s Learning Notes, in particular those on “Issues related to Key Success Factor 2: Poverty, Social Development and Targeting” covering Gender; Food Security, Health and Nutrition; and Project Targeting. These are available at: http://www.ifad.org/rural/learningnotes/ALL_LN.pdf

Most information for the Annex on Poverty, Gender and Targeting could come from the poverty analysis study (which should also cover gender), with additional insights from the inception report or project concept note. There may also be other sources of information, including other studies carried out in the project area. Official sources of data can provide information on poverty levels, employment and malnutrition.

(b) Describe the key issues faced in Phase 1 and other similar programmes in women’s empowerment and draw up lessons for the future project.

Suggestion: Lessons for the future project may be apparent from IFAD project review reports for phase 1, and further information can be obtained from discussions with project staff and members of IFAD review missions. Useful lessons can also be obtained from other programmes (including NGO projects) by reading their reports and meeting their staff. Lessons can be categorised into positive – what works well and could be upscaled, and what does not work so well and should either be avoided in future or implemented in a different way.

(c) Summarise the main barriers that constrain the empowerment of women and draw up a model Gender Strategy and Action Plan for mainstreaming gender concerns in each of the project component with specific gender-related actions, targets and milestones.

Suggestions for what could be included in a Gender Strategy and Action Plan are available by following the following World Bank and ADB links. Gender Action Plans are often included in ADB project design documents.
http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTGENDER/0,,menuPK:336874~pagePK:149018~piPK:149093~theSitePK:336868,00.html
http://www.adb.org/Documents/Brochures/Project-Gender-Action-Plans/gender-briefing-note.pdf

(d) Based on experiences of Phase 1 identify key issues and lessons in knowledge management that need to be addressed to overcome bottlenecks; draw up a KM Strategy and Action Plan in line with IFAD’s KM Strategy for incorporation into the draft PIM.

Suggestion: Lessons regarding KM could include the production of different knowledge products and their influence on lessons learning, institutions and policy.

(e) Draw up proposals and terms of reference for participatory evaluations of the impact of the project on the lives of women.

Suggestion: These ToR could include a check list of possible issues to be investigated, identify possible participatory tools to be used, and specify the number of group PRA sessions to be held and how these groups should be made up. To provide a basis for comparison, it could be useful to collect information from people who are not participating in the project.

(f) Based on experiences of Phase 1 and working in conjunction with M&E specialist of the mission, identify issues that needed to be addressed for engendering M&E system and/or draw up gender mainstreaming/impact indicators to be included in M&E templates/systems.

Suggestion: Indicators for women’s empowerment could well be specific to an individual project, and consideration will need to be given on how information on these indicators will be collected. It should be remembered that, for the purposes of a design document, the logframe is best used as a summary of the internal logic of the project – how activities end up in achieving objectives – and ideally should be kept to a single page. More detailed information on indicators (including disaggregation by gender and other targeting criteria) can be included in M&E plans such as the M&E matrix.

(g) Assist the Economist in preparing cost table relevant to the activities identified.

Suggestion: The Gender Action Plan may have some cost implications which will need to be included in project costs.

(h) Provide a working paper on the theme using IFAD’s format.

Suggestion: The outputs of this assignment include the Annex on Poverty, Gender and Targeting, and a section for the PIM on Knowledge Management. In addition a Working Paper covering gender issues could be prepared, and include a draft Gender Action Plan (although this could also be part of the PIM).

Posted on 12/17/11 8:54 PM.

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Thank you Edward for taking the time to provide this very useful and detailed response. The consultant was provided with the IFAD documents that you mention, but we had forgotten to include them in the Resource Library! And thank you also for the links to the World Bank and ADB materials.

Posted on 12/19/11 5:34 AM in reply to Edward Mallorie.

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