Key Actions by:

Standard 7: Realistic and participatory detailed implementation planning for program impact.

Develop, jointly with partners, an evidence-based detailed implementation plan that includes programmatic, financial, procurement, logistics and donor engagement activities.

Validate key project design decisions based on an updated review of the project operating context (risks, issues, and opportunities).

  • Who

    • Primary responsible: Project manager/chief of party (PM/CoP) if part of the design process, or other designated individual with a thorough understanding of the project design.
      • If she/he was part of the design process, the PM/CoP leads the overall context review and validation process; otherwise, the HoP or a member of the proposal development team with strong understanding of the project design and decisions made during the design process leads the process with organizational support and follow-up actions led by the PM/CoP.

    • Others involved: Members of the project design/proposal development team; all available CRS and partner members of the project start-up/implementation team; head of programming (HoP) and head of operations (HoOps), if not part of the proposal development team; country representative (CR); security staff and technical advisors as needed.

    Who should be in the room? The participation of programming and operations staff with a solid understanding of project operating realities and the project design is key to an effective operating context review and proposal validation process.  This may include staff with security responsibilities, especially in insecure operating contexts. Newer staff less familiar with the project context and design should participate for their learning and understanding of the project. Select technical advisors or other regional staffFor example, the RTA for MEAL; regional or senior technical advisors for priority programming sectors; deputy regional director for program quality. may also participate in design validation, particularly for large and complex projects. Finally, it may also be appropriate to include partner senior leadership, in addition to partner project team members.

  • When
    • The operating context review and validation process always takes place before detailed implementation planning.  
      • For most projects, operating context review and validation can be incorporated into the project start-up workshop.
      • For projects where there have been significant changes in the operating context and/or where CRS anticipates making changes to the project, organizing an operating context review and validation event before the start-up workshop may be needed to ensure appropriate technical inputs and donor consultation/approval as applicable.

    Operating context review, validation, and award negotiation: Complete as much of the operating context review and proposal validation as possible prior to award finalization, to ensure that the final approved proposal and award reflect the situation on the ground. For some donors (e.g., USDA), award negotiation is a lengthy and complex process which provides scope for carrying out the steps below. However, most donors’ award negotiation and finalization processes do not allow for a comprehensive operating context review or validation of the original project proposal. Furthermore, if staff who will play important roles in project start-up and implementation are not in place at the time of issues letter response or award negotiation, a post-approval operating context review and validation process will still be needed.

  • Partnership
    • As noted above, partners, and especially local partners, have a critical role to play in the validation process given their strong understanding of the operating context and their vital role in project implementation.
    • If CRS and partners signed sub-recipient agreements before the validation meeting, review the partner program description/scope of work and budget attached to the sub-recipient agreement, to identify if any changes are needed to these documents. This is particularly important when the validation process generates significant changes to the project. If donor approval is needed for any changes, be sure to secure it before updating the sub-recipient agreement. Follow the CRS Agreements Policy and Procedure for required reviews of any modifications to sub-recipient agreements.
  • When CRS is a sub-recipient
    • When CRS is a sub-recipient, any overall validation process will be led by the prime. CRS should inquire about the prime’s process and inform the prime about CRS’ approach to project validation.
    • If the prime does not organize a formal project validation, CRS should conduct a validation process focusing on CRS project responsibilities.
    • Based on CRS’ internal validation, and in line with step 5 above, seek approval for adaptations from the prime as necessary; at minimum, communicate the outcomes of CRS’ validation process, including any significant risks or issues.
  • Emergency projects
    • Validation is an essential process in emergencies, since the need to make significant changes to the initial project design is essentially a “given” with a rapidly-evolving situation on the ground and fast-tracking of design.
    • For externally funded projects, many donors build in significant flexibility in agreements to enable changes as needed; if this is not built into the agreement, negotiate it (see Standard 10, key action 1). Most emergency donors expect CRS to be responsive to a changing environment, so project teams should not hesitate to use the flexibility donors offer, or request donor approval if needed to make adjustments if CRS has evidence of changing needs or opportunities. If donors require formal requests for certain changes, work closely with donor engagement staff (as applicable) on the process for requesting changes, keeping in mind that it’s often helpful to discuss proposed adjustments verbally with the donor before making a formal request.
    • Even in emergencies, there may be extended delays between when CRS submits an emergency proposal and when CRS receives donor approval to start project activities. This can result in mismatches between the proposal and the situation on the ground at start-up – for example, beneficiary needs may have shifted – e.g., displaced people may have started returning to their communities of origin; targeting may need adjustment; or some activities planned for a specific implementation period may no longer be appropriate by the time the donor approves the project– due to the evolution in the response context, shifting community needs, and/or operational context issues (e.g., missing a planting season; interventions that other actors have organized in the interim). In such situations, validation and engagement with the donor around such issues is very important.
    • Approach validation as an iterative process, that is, you should review and revalidate or adjust plans whenever a significant change in the environment occurs project during implementation. Telescope and adapt the Guidance for Operating Context Review and Proposal Validation as needed.