Standard 2: Evidence-based, participatory design for project success.
Employ evidence-based, participatory processes to design a project that can deliver high-quality results on time, on scope and on budget.
Determine the project scope and scale based on evidence and experience.
Project success is dependent on balancing scope (e.g. sectors, interventions), scale (e.g. participants, organizations, geographic reach), time and budget. In many cases, the project timeframe and budget are predetermined. Identifying the appropriate project scope and scale, based on experience and evidence, is one of the most critical design decisions to ensure quality implementation and achieve impact. Using experience and evidence to determine project scope and scale has significant impact on project management as it:
- Ensures that the project strategy is relevant, credible, and appropriate to the project context.
- Ensures a feasible activity schedule.
- Facilitates realistic project budgeting.
- Helps the project design team avoid superficial or erroneous assumptions or conclusions.
- Creates a solid basis for measuring project progress and impact.
- Primary responsible: Proposal technical lead
- The proposal technical lead, with input from the proposal development team (proposal coordinator, budget lead, etc.), partners, technical advisors, and reviewers, leads the process of determining an appropriate project scope and scale.
- Others involved: Proposal development team including partners; technical advisors and proposal reviewers; proposal decision-maker;The proposal decision-maker is a senior staff (typically the country representative) with responsibility for making strategic decisions related to CRS’ response to a specific funding opportunity. This includes partnership/consortium-related negotiations and agreements; recruitment and selection of key personnel; definition of preliminary budget parameters (including any CRS cost-share); other critical budget decisions; and review and approval of final versions of proposal documents (including budgets). This is a critical, though not full-time, proposal development team role.
head of operations (HoOps) and/or procurement or supply chain manager; reviewers; regional business development staff and IDEA staff.
- The proposal decision-maker has overall authority to approve the proposed project scale and scope.
- The HoOps, budget lead and/or supply chain manager contribute to decisions about scope and scale by evaluating the feasibility of project strategies and implementation options considering the project timeframe, budget and operating context considerations.
- Reviewers (typically technical advisors and the deputy regional director for program quality) provide feedback on proposed scope and scale as part of overall project design review.
- For proposals for external funding, regional business development staff and/or IDEA staff advise on donor interests to ensure the proposed scope and scale are responsive and competitive (see also Standard 5).
- As early as possible in the design process, with adjustments as needed based on new or updated information.
- The project design team outlines initial thinking about scope and scale at Project Alert/Go-No-Go stage, makes preliminary decisions on scope and scale at concept note (initial design) stage, and refines decisions during full proposal development.
NOTE: Project management standard 2 focuses on the wider project design process described in detail in CRS’ ProPack I guidance. Within that wider process, this key action highlights a particularly important design decision of determining project scope and scale, given the project management implications of that decision. Use this key action guidance in conjunction with ProPack I Chapters IV and V and Chapters VIII and IX.ProPack I Chapters IV and V guide the project design team through evidence-based initial scope and scale decisions (Goal, SOs, IRs), while Chapters VIII and IX provide guidance on operational decisions (realism and feasibility of activities, management structure and budget).
The following steps summarize the overall process for making project scope and scale decisions – see ProPack I for additional guidance, as indicated below.
- Using ProPack I assessment guidance (Chapter IV), the proposal technical lead guides the project design/proposal development team in developing and refining plans for the project assessment.
- If it’s clear from the beginning of the design process that the project will include distribution of goods to project participants, plan for a logistics assessment. The CRS Supply Chain Management Handbook includes useful guidance and a Logistics Rapid Assessment Tool.
- Click here for Considerations for planning initial logistics assessments.
Depending on the anticipated project supply chain activities, an initial logistics assessment to inform decisions about project scope and scale may include assessing the following:
- Transport routes
- Availability and type of vehicles
- Warehouse locations
- Import requirements
- Likely lead times (from requisition to distribution)
- Supplier options.
Don’t wait until a funding opportunity drops to start gathering information that will help inform decisions about project scope and scale: For projects developed in response to external funding opportunities, once a solicitationA solicitation is a formal document issued by a funder to request applications, proposals, offers, or quotations. The exact term used will differ by donor and funding mechanism (assistance or acquisition), but all of the following would fall under the umbrella of “solicitation”: Request for Applications (RFA); Request for Proposals (RFP); Grant Application Request; and Annual Program Statements (APS). is released, there may be very little time for CRS to complete assessment processes, including gathering evidence. As part of wider capture planning,Capture planning is the process of identifying particular funding opportunities, assessing the environment, and implementing strategies for increasing the chances of winning a specific opportunity. Capture planning occurs before release of a funding opportunity. identify and review relevant secondary data. In addition to literature reviews of secondary data,Summarize findings from literature reviews conducted as part of capture planning. This information will help with writing proposal sections later in the project design process. See also ProPack I, Chapter IV, section 2 for guidance on collecting, organizing, and analyzing secondary data. compile relevant internal and external evaluation and lessons learned reports, and summaries of after-action reviews. These will be useful inputs for step 2 below, especially strategy selection. For guidance on other aspects of capture planning for anticipated funding opportunities, see Standard 5, key action 2.
- After conducting primary and secondary data assessments per ProPack I guidance, the project design/proposal development team reviews, analyses, and interprets assessment findings as well as other information to: identify the core problem, underlying causes, and gaps; set higher-level project objectives; select and refine appropriate project strategies; and develop an initial project results framework aligned to the project strategies and theory of change.
- Follow ProPack I guidance (see Chapters IV and V), including guidance on scope and scale considerations in Chapter V, sections 1.4. and 3.1. Use and adapt ProPack I tools (e.g. Table 5b: Summary list of project strategy options, and Table 5c: Possible criteria to evaluate project strategy options) to ensure decisions are made through a systematic process informed by experience and evidence.
- As emphasized in ProPack I, Chapter VIII, keep operations as well as programming considerations in mind. Discussions with operations staff can help the team assess risks associated with the proposed project design from multiple angles, surface assumptions, and determine the feasibility of each potential programming strategy given the project context – and if a strategy seems feasible, determine whether is it feasible in the operating environment at the scale proposed.
- For projects which will include distribution of goods to project participants, the technical lead works with the proposal supply chain management lead, the HoOps, and partner operations staff to compare the feasibility of different supply chain optionsSupply chain options could include local, regional, or international purchase of goods; obtaining gifts-in-kind; prepositioning goods; or cash-based programming such as the distribution of vouchers or cash. Keep in mind donor and host government policies related to the different options. for achieving project objectives.
- Solicit reviewer feedback on the initial project design, including the proposed scope and scale – see Standard 2, key action 4 and ProPack I, Chapter VI (Concept Note) for guidance on the review process.
- Click here for Considerations when determining scope and scale for projects for external funding opportunities.
- Ensure decisions about project scope and scale take into account donor requirements and preferences (review solicitation information as well as CRS discussions about donor requirements and preferences – see Standard 5, key action 4 and the Donor Reality Checklist). Some donors have special restrictions on certain types of programs (e.g., cash assistance, direct distributions); others have informal targets or expectations for “cost-per-beneficiary” or geographic preferences that may not be explicitly mentioned in the proposal guidelines but should be reflected in the design.
- Use donor intelligence from pre-positioning efforts and check with IDEA staff as applicable to ensure preliminary ideas about project scope and scale are likely to be competitive.
- The project design team refines the project approach and programming strategies and details project activities and outputs, building on reviewer inputs and feedback on the draft design and additional analysis of programming and operations considerations.
- The technical lead documents final design decisions regarding strategy, scope and scale, as well as risks and critical assumptions, for incorporation in the proposalRisks and assumptions may be captured in the critical assumptions column of the Proframe or donor equivalent, in a risk analysis proposal section or attachment, or another proposal section. Follow donor requirements and preferences. and inclusion in the Proposal Handover File (see Standard 6, key action 1).
- Careful documentation of risks and assumptions which influenced decisions about project scope and scale will help with articulating the rationale for these decisions, both internally and with any donor.
- Documentation of risks and assumptions at design stage will also facilitate project design validation and analysis of the project operating context, including risks and issues,Risks defined at design phase are typically a starting point for establishing the project risk register, a critical project management tool. during project start-up and implementation.
When CRS is a sub-recipient
- Involve and accompany partners in planning and conducting project needs assessments.
- Involve partners appropriately in the analysis and interpretation of assessment findings, and in relevant project design decisions. This is often done through partner participation in a design workshop or workshops. See Standard 2, key action 2 for additional guidance on engaging partners in the project design process.
- Partners have deep knowledge of local issues that may impact the feasibility of a potential project strategy. Engage partners in discussions of programming and operations considerations that influence decisions about project scope and scale, including strategy identification, analysis, and prioritization.
- As a sub-recipient, CRS does not have the final responsibility for decisions on overall project scope and scale. However, CRS’ scope of work within the project will be driven by these decisions. CRS should always seek to influence scope and scale decisions drawing on assessment information (gathered following the guidance outline above and detailed in ProPack I) and agency experience, particularly in the focus programming sectors and target geographies for the project.
- The scope and scale of CRS’ sub role is often determined by the prime based on the prime’s assessment of CRS’ added-value. Ensure careful preparation for representational meetings with primes considering CRS as a potential sub-recipient. Articulate the “value proposition” for including CRS in the proposal, demonstrate why CRS is the right fit for a particular scope of work, and highlight the full breadth of CRS’ capacities (in-country, regionally, and globally).
- CRS’ and its local partners’ field experience and presence is often one of the reasons for a prime’s selection of CRS as a partner in the project. Leverage this when working with the prime to establish a (pre)Teaming Agreement.A teaming agreement is an agreement between two or more entities intended to increase competitiveness by pooling resources to obtain and perform an award. This term is used frequently in consortia-based proposal development. Organizations sign pre-teaming agreements to commit to work together to prepare for an anticipated funding opportunity, and to formalize the organizations’ intent to jointly pursue the opportunity when released. Secure the prime’s commitment to involve CRS in all formal project design planning and decision-making meetings/workshop. If the prime will make high-level project design decisions at its head office, negotiate and coordinate CRS participation in these meetings as well.
- In emergencies, assessment information on what other actors are doing or are planning to do and related gap analysis is essential for decision-making about project scope and scale. Coordinate closely with other stakeholders (UN and UN cluster system, NGOs, government authorities) to gather this information.
- In addition to assessment information on other stakeholders’ plans, the proposal development team must also consider information from rapid needs assessments and logistics assessments. Needs and feasibility assessments often take place simultaneously and should include operations staff participation to ensure an adequate assessment of operations issues that will affect programming strategies.
- Availability of pre-positioned supplies, the possibility of temporarily reassigning existing assets (when feasible), and the use of emergency provisions or waivers for streamlining CRS operational systems should be factored into the determination of emergency project scale and scope.
- Emergency responses often prioritize scale (reaching more people with fewer activities) over scope (implementing activities touching on multiple sectors).
- Given what is often a fluid situation on the ground, emergency donors typically allow for modifications to the project’s sectoral and geographical focus and/or activities. This may include changes to project scope and scale, if there is strong justification that the changes are needed to respond effectively to priority unmet needs.
- In an emergency response, project design decisions are often made for the overall emergency response, rather than for specific projects/proposals. This provides additional flexibility to tailor each specific project’s scope and scale to donor preferences and priorities.
- See ProPack I’s “How is this different in an emergency response” sections in the highlighted chapters for more guidance.
Tools and templates
Logistics Rapid Assessment tool (from CRS’ Supply Chain Management Handbook)
- As early as possible in the design process, with adjustments as needed based on new or updated information.
- Primary responsible: Proposal technical lead