Developing in a Whole New Sphere

Image provided by Hanno Mackowitz

Wanting to make a difference is the first step for many people who enter the world of humanitarian and international development. Luckily no one has to invent the wheel again and there are already some guidelines provided.

Like travel, working in development poses some challenges that one should be aware of ahead of time. It’s not merely a matter of finding out what visas will be necessary or what clothing is culturally appropriate for a region –though those things do matter – but instead, understanding the impact and the elements that must be included in any development project.

It shouldn’t have to be said but, no one should ever enter a community and tell the local people what to do. Rather, they should ask the people what they need. Those doing development aren’t always able to provide what’s needed due to a number of issues, including: lack of resources, differing mission goals, wrong skill-sets and different sectors of development.

Luckily for those new to development and looking into developing project proposals there is a tool to assist. The Logical Framework Approach (LFA) was developed to aid in the creation of programs so that certain minimum criteria are always met. The use of a matrix (table, see example 1), helps you determine what can be done. Large donor organizations, in particular, AusAid (Australian Aid, a government agency) and USAID (United States Agency for International Development, a government agency) even require the use of the LFA by those organizations seeking grants.

Example 1 –

Activity Description Indicators Means of Verification Assumptions
Goal or Impact – The ultimate point to be achieved. A clear sign(s) that the goal is achieved. Source of information; what will be collected and how.
Purpose or Outcome – Benefits to the community or target groups. A clear sign(s) that the beneficiaries are actually being affected. Source of information; what will be collected and how. Assumptions based on the community, the goal and their relation.
Component Objectives or Intermediate Results – Objectives to be achieved while striving for the purpose or goal. A clear sign(s) that the project is on track and progress is being made. Source of information; what will be collected and how. Assumptions based on the component objectives, the purpose and their relation.
Outputs – Deliverables. A clear sign(s) that the outputs have been delivered. Source of information; what will be collected and how. Assumptions based on the outputs, component objectives and their relation.

It is considered simply good practice to use the LFA when designing a project.  The idea is that it will ensure that a vast majority of the criteria for a project or organization (donor, stakeholder[1] or otherwise) is met.   For projects concerning water and the environment, the international development community also has some good practices when it comes to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). The standards set down by the Sphere Project are primarily for humanitarian response to emergencies and disasters but there is nothing to say that they shouldn’t carry over to development projects.

For those with no or little background in humanitarian development and seeking to work on or develop a WASH project, a read of the Sphere handbook Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response will give you a good understanding of what is necessary. Such things include the distance a latrine should be placed from other buildings, how far it should be placed from drinking water sources, and the ratio of latrines to people and much more.

Gender issues should not be dismissed off-handedly just because a project is focused on WASH. If anything, it is the perfect time to incorporate them, as it is commonly women and girls who collect water and are at risk during visits to the latrine. The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) has an excellent gender equality handbook (available here)that will provide insight into the considerations that need to be taken concerning gender when designing a project.

At the same time that you’re considering what a community or people need, you should also be thinking about what they have. Focusing on the infrastructure that already exists is known as capacity building. In many cases, it is capacity building that would better suit a community, as a project would be designed around their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

Strengths to remember to include local organizations such as cooperatives, women’s, church and religious groups. It is great to incorporate the often forgotten, numerous skills that women of the local community possess; and the overall willingness of the people to change their lives. When designing any project, do so with the people you’re trying to help in mind, the outcome will be better and the rewards will be all the greater.

For more information see:
Monitoring and Evaluation News
USAID’s Development Experience System (DEXS)

[1] Stakeholder: Any organization, group or individual that will be affected by a project. Includes governments, local communities, NGOs and donor organizations.

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