know you want to do something and you have an idea in
your head about what that might be. Before you do anything
else, you need to develop three things to turn that idea into a
Start with your own knowledge:
You probably already know what you
would like your project to tackle. Use
your local knowledge as the basis of
your research of both your community and subject area. List exactly
what you know and the issues you
believe need to be addressed.
To plan a fantastic project, write
down anything that you would like to
but don’t be too specific
at this stage. Your research may un-
cover new ideas. Don’t limit yourself.
However, by clarifying a broad idea
of the area and people you would
like to work with, you have a far better starting point for your
research. Use what you already know to identify the people you should
to, to find out more.
Talk to your community: From your
own experiences, you have identified where you would like to do your
project and some of the ideas it may
tackle. Now it is time to learn from
the people this project should hopefully benefit. What do they think
improve their community?The web is full of sites offering information
about development priorities. Try doing a
web search using key phrases or check out some of these online research
Before you begin planning your project, it is essential you
thoroughly research both your subject area and the people who
will be changed by your project. Good research can help you make
sure you tackle the right issue effectively and efficiently.
Cultural and Ethical
How well do you know the people
affected by your project? If they are
part of your community,you probably
know them pretty well and you don’t
have to worry;their norms of behaviour
will be your norms.But if you are from
the middle-class part of town and are
interviewing people in the poorer areas,
be aware that culture and norms may be
very different.The same applies if you are
planning to take part in a project abroad. It is essential
to get to grips with differences of culture to prevent misunderstandings
from damaging your work.Try
getting in touch with local people or organisations and ask for guidance
you go to areas.Think about taking on a
local person as a cultural mentor who can
advise you on any issues that may affect
your project and relationship with the
community. Here also are a few points to
• Rules for clothing:Is that skirt too short?
Do men and women need to cover up?
• Language:Could your words be misinterpreted to mean something different?
• Rural areas:Remember rural areas can
be more conservative and protective
than urban areas in the same country.
• Religion and beliefs:Are there certain
times for prayer when you shouldn’t
disturb? Be aware of any clashes between
your project and the local religion and
prepare solutions to tackle this. What are their attitudes
toward the problem you wish to tackle.
Is it an
issue that will engage them or is it of
comparatively low importance? Always talk to your peers: your project
may not be aimed at young people,
but it should definitely be done by
them. So find out what is on their
minds, and how they think they can
Talk to the people who will be most
helped by your project. If you plan
to run a soup kitchen for the homeless, talk to the homeless about
their needs. Do not worry about
formal questioning at this stage. It is
important to get a general feel for
the community so you know where
to direct your energy and who to
contact in the future.
Hit the books: Now that you have
a broad idea of what the community needs it is time to back up your
knowledge with facts. Research the
issues faced by your community so
you can become an expert on the
problem. When looking for funding
it is incredibly useful to be able to
quote statistics and hard facts, so
take the time to collect some that
suggest there is a real need for your
project. Think literacy rates, HIV-AIDS
infection rates, school enrollment
rates – all of these statistics should be
available at your local UNDP office.
Getting a project idea
Once you are well informed on the
issues and feelings
of the community, you can confidently start planning your project.
To do this,
you need a workable and achievable idea. There is no best way to
project idea, but there are steps that will make sure your idea is
a good one.
Get help: Having more than one person thinking about a problem leads
to better solutions. Build a team of
like-minded people. Bounce issues
and suggestions off one another.
Interaction: Talking with others
almost always generates new suggestions. Your team will help you
measure how good an idea really is.
Constantly invite feedback: take on
both positive and negative criticism,
and use it to develop your idea.
Try not to be too upset if someone
identifies a major flaw in your idea -
better to raise a problem now than
later after you have put a lot of work
into an idea.
Idea generating: Expect to have a
few failed ideas before you get one
that is really good.
Explore what have others done before you and how can you learn from
this. Does their research highlight
anything you hadn’t thought of?
Think about the issue on a local and
national level. What, for example,
is being done locally and globally
to tackle the AIDS pandemic? Are
there groups and organisations on
both levels that could help or work
with you on your project? Or are you
duplicating the work of another and
would it be best to tackle an alternative problem or another angle?
out groups registered in your local
area and surf the internet to find
national programmes of research and
Streamline your ideas through
detailed questioning: You now know
the issue you would like to tackle
inside and out. Use your new knowledge to go back into the community
and ask the key questions that will
help you identify exactly how this
issue can be tackled in this specific
area. Your earlier contact with the
community should have given you
an idea of the key people to go back
and talk to. From your research you
should have an idea of exactly what
you need to ask. Back