Planning and Monitoring Projects
The following information provides tips on how to make planning successful, and the basic components of a simple planning process.
The planning process described here was used to assist family groups with developing community change projects in their local communities.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead
Making planning successful
- build relationships (make sure people have the opportunity to get to know one another)
- create a ‘safe learning environment’ where people are not afraid to voice their ideas and get feedback
- build trust and ensure equitable relationships
- determine how the meeting will proceed, informal meetings will still need a flexible structure (ie, how much time is spent on ‘catching up’, or on other issues, etc)
- try and find common interests/vision
- share inspirational stories that build on the vision of the group (for themselves and their community)
- maintain momentum and keeps things moving
- break down goals to achievable steps
- share any progress at each meeting and celebrate success
- do not be afraid to change direction if something is not working, or the groups interest moves in a different direction
- allow for creative thinking and solutions.
Planning for success
The following is a simple process that can be used with the most informal group/s.
Ensure group members are aware of key principles that disabled persons and families have endorsed to guide service development and sector change (ie. Enabling Good Lives key principles).
Enabling Good Lives Principles
Steps (how, where, when and who?)
Destination (what and why?)
Sometimes the starting point begins by discussing the end point or destination. What do you want to achieve and what might it look like? Once you have determined the destination you can work backwards from there and determine your steps (C).
Identify what’s important
If you are unsure of what the group project might be, start by determining what is important to each member of the group and the community they live in.
Try not to get trapped in ‘what is’ but look at the type of community you want. Try and move the group from what is currently ‘available/happening’ to what you would ‘love’ to see happen?
The following questions can help groups to explore and define what their priorities are. This might involve conversations about:
- What is important to you and your community?
- What type of community do you want?
- What is the long-term vision for your community? What do you want both now and into the future?
- What are the opportunities?
- Who will benefit from this project? How can the community benefit?
- What resources and assets currently exist to help achieve your goal/vision?
- What strengths and connections do you have?
- What obstacles or resistance exist?
- What strategies are needed to achieve the goal?
- What are the skills, interests or talents of each group member that will contribute to the project?
- How will the group know if the project is successful?
Group Mind Mapping
Another way to explore possibilities is through a structured brainstorming session. Typically a nominated group member (or facilitator) would pose a question and get the individual group members to answer those questions on their own before sharing their ideas with the group.
This helps individuals to get clear on what they think (before discussing it as a group) and helps to ensure there is equitable decision-making.
The following process is used to assist with group mind mapping:
A nominated group member (or facilitator) poses a question or questions for individual group members to answer, these questions are aimed to help participants define what is important to them.
Typical questions might be:
- what type of community do you want to live in?
- what would it look like?
- what would you love?
- what’s important to you?
You may need to …
- provide time for individual brainstorming
- get individuals to share their ideas with the group, make sure everyone has a say
- record ideas (using key words) on a mind map and link ideas that relate to one another
- get a feel of where there is common interest and passion
- get the group to decide on the project of their choice (ensure the whole group is in agreement, not one or two people)
- start exploring connections, skills, and talents of the people in the group to help determine all the steps and people needed in order to reach the final destination.
To assist the group to clarify a project you may need to do additional research, for example; surveys by families to other family members to determine need, holding a focus group, contacting other community groups or local councils for more information, etc.
C Steps (‘the how, where, when and who’)
The group reaches a decision on what the project will be. The group clarifies/defines its objectives and the outcomes it seeks. The group begins to formalise a plan of action.
A plan helps the group get specific about what needs to happen in order to achieve their objectives. How the action plan is recorded is up to the group, but it would typically involve a discussion of the following points:
1) vision of the group
2) goal or project description
3) key tasks and steps to achieve the goal
4) individual/s responsible
5) time frames and
6) how the project will be monitored and reviewed.
|Project Description (Goal):|
|Key Tasks (Steps):||Who||Timeframe||Comment|
|What we have learned (Review):|
The best goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and have time frames attached.
A SWOT analysis, even for a relatively informal group can be useful. It ensures that all participants are realistic about the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities in undertaking a project.
Whenever you encounter a threat or weakness, ensure that as a group you brainstorm a solution or work out how you can minimalise the threat. Always be proactive in thinking about how to overcome any obstacles.
Strengths: Write down the resources and capabilities of the group and how they will contribute to the success of the project.
Weaknesses: Describe what potential issues could arise to hamper the success of the project (internal or external). This may include finance, time, expertise, commitment, not enough clarity and so on.
Opportunities: Discuss who might partner or support the project (from outside the group). Who do you need on board to make the project successful? What are the opportunities to influence change? What are the opportunities to do something different?
Threats: discuss what situations, events and/or people outside the group that could potentially negatively influence the project.
Each group will need to decide how they monitor their project. This can be done simply by adding to the plan of action at each meeting, or through meeting notes or minutes.
It is important that as each task or step is achieved, the group asks itself ‘what needs to happen next?’.
At the end the project the group should CELEBRATE their ACHIEVEMENTS as well as take the time to review:
- how it went
- what they learnt
- what they might do differently next time
- where they are now
- where they want to head
- what action is needed, and
- next step/s.