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.
Organize a start-up workshop to orient the project team, partner staff, and key stakeholders to the project design and compliance requirements.
A project start-up workshop is a foundational activity for any project. A well-organized start-up workshop:
- Ensures that CRS and partner leadership understand the project design, commitments, and organizational roles and responsibilities
- Reinforces the CRS and partner project team’s understanding of project requirements, including donor compliance
- Lays the foundationThe start-up workshop (whether a multi-day event with a complex consortium, or a half-day meeting for a small project with an existing partner), always takes place before DIP development. The workshop to draft the project DIP may take place immediately after the start-up sessions as part of a longer event, or the project team may organize a separate DIP workshop at a later date. for an effective detailed implementation planning (DIP) process
- Provides an opportunity to establish norms, build trust and rapport, and create a shared sense of accountability for project success among team members from different organizations. This in turn creates an enabling environment for adaptive management.
- Primary responsible: Project manager/chief of party (PM/CoP)
- The PM/CoP leads start-up workshop planning and leads many workshop sessions.
- Others involved: Head of programming (HoP); head of operations (HoOps); senior operations staff; MEAL staff; regional or headquarters (HQ) staff who may play a specific role in the project (e.g., IDEA staff, or an HQ or regional program and/or operations advisor); CRS and partner project team members
- Senior CRS operations staff, including finance, human resources, ICT, supply chain management staff including procurement, and the project MEAL lead contribute their subject matter expertise to workshop planning and facilitate individual sessions, particularly those related to CRS and donor requirements.
- For particularly complex or technically innovative projects, HQ or regional program and/or operations advisors and donor engagement staff may also participate in the start-up workshop and/or support with workshop planning.
- CRS and partner project team members participate in the start-up workshop.
External stakeholder participation in start-up workshops: It is often important to engage stakeholders who are not part of the CRS and partner/consortium project team (e.g., key government representatives) in project start-up activities beyond formal “launch” events. The start-up workshop may be an appropriate opportunity for this engagement, specifically during overview sessions, which are typically the first in the sequence of project start-up workshop activities (see Start-up Workshop Building Blocks). Identify the most appropriate stakeholders to invite to such sessions and take the time to plan for their participation in a way that will be mutually beneficial to the stakeholder(s) and the project team.
- For projects shorter than 12 months, in the first month
- For projects longer than 12 months, in the first quarter
- As soon as possible for emergency projects
Joint or separate start-up and DIP workshops?
Many CRS projects organize joint start-up and DIP workshops, often to maximize use of human and financial resources. If a joint start-up/DIP workshop is the best option for your project, make sure to clearly communicate to participants whether their participation is needed in the start-up portion, DIP portion, or both. For complex projects and projects with a consortium or numerous implementing partners, consider conducting the start-up and DIP workshops separately (see Project Start-up Key Meetings and Events for more details on workshop sequencing and focus). Organizing a separate, earlier start-up workshop:
- Helps to ensure that the team that will develop the DIP has a solid understanding of project fundamentals before beginning detailed implementation planning.
- Allows more time for rapport and perspective-building among potentially diverse consortium/partner staff who will work together on DIP planning.
- Provides an opportunity to identify information to collect and other needed pre-DIP workshop preparation. This helps the team use DIP workshop time more effectively.
- May help differentiate participation to ensure the most appropriate contributions and engagement (e.g., senior management participation is important for big-picture start-up workshop discussions; effective DIP development requires participation from programming and operations staff with a solid understanding of the field realities).
For start-up workshops for externally funded projects, review Standard 10, key action 2 for additional considerations and guidance.
Follow these steps for an effective project start-up workshop:
- The start-up planning team schedules the start-up workshop early in the start-up planning process (see Standard 6, key action 2 for early start-up planning guidance).
- The PM/CoP meets with other members of the project team to plan the start-up workshop, telescoping steps based on project complexity:
- Use the Start-up Workshop Building BlocksThe Start-up Workshop Building Blocks document provides a comprehensive list of topics that form the basic building blocks for an effective start-up workshop. The document also includes sample workshop agendas for two different project scenarios: a CRS discretionary-funded project with a small number of existing partners, and a complex, external donor-funded project with multiple partners. document as a guide to plan the workshop. Adjust content taking into account early start-up planning discussions between CRS and partners (see Partnership section below).
- Discuss which aspects of the project might be particularly challenging for CRS and partners, drawing on the risk and issue analysis from the project validation process, if completed before the start-up workshop (note that for many projects, validation will be incorporated into the start-up workshop). For example:
- Is there a new programming activity or approach that requires a deeper review?
- Are there operations issues that CRS anticipates will be especially challenging based on experience with similar projects and/or complexities in the current operating context?
- Do donor requirements present concerns for project management efficiency?
Plan and sequence workshop sessions thoughtfully to ensure thorough discussion, analysis, and action planning around such topics or issues.
- Identify any other special considerations for the start-up workshop and incorporate them into the plan (e.g., combining project validation with the start-up workshop; including external stakeholders; providing intensive orientation to compliance requirements if the project is funded by a new donor; holding a consortium workshop prior to the start-up workshop).
- Identify the appropriate participants for individual workshop sessions (see the Start-up Workshop Building Blocks for guidance).
TIP: Approach the start-up workshop as a tiered process, moving from high-level orientation about overall project design, implementation and compliance requirements with the full group of organizational leaders and project staff, to a more focused review and discussion of technical programming and operations details and processes with the CRS and partner project teams. For complex, multi-partner projects, plan the sequencing of, and participants for, sessions carefully. See the example agendas in the Start-up Workshop Building Blocks document for examples of what this tiered approach looks like in projects of different levels of complexity.
- The PM/CoP confirms that start-up workshop materials are ready prior to the workshop. In addition to project documents, materials may include:
- The Award Management Deliverables Calendar (prepared as part of final agreement review - see Standard 10, key action 1) for externally funded projects.
- A draft project communications plan and/or protocol (particularly important for multi-partner projects – see example protocol under “Other resources”).
- A draft project donor engagement plan.
- Draft project business process maps for review, discussion, and revision as needed (especially important for projects with complex operating contexts and/or complex partner arrangements).
- The PM/CoP and subject matter experts facilitate the start-up workshop for CRS and partner staff.
Getting the most out of workshops: To ensure an engaging and successful start-up workshop, be sure to incorporate appropriate adult learning techniques. Avoid long presentations. Instead, engage the group, leveraging their knowledge and experience to imagine what the start-up process might look like in the specific project context; identify where obstacles might arise; and propose ways to overcome them. Seek support from experienced colleagues and consult CRS' Guidance on Designing and Delivering Effective Training Events for adult training techniques; session design considerations; and facilitation guide templates.
- Following the workshop, the PM/CoP circulates a summary of the key points to partner/consortium leadership and all CRS and partner project team members. This reinforces a common understanding of decisions and commitments. The summary should include:
- Decisions, agreements, and recommendations.
- Key questions or issues that could not be addressed or finalized during the start-up workshop (e.g., for externally funded projects, issues requiring discussion with the donor; for proposed revisions to processes, questions or recommendations requiring senior leadership approval).
- Next steps, including the plan for addressing the key questions and issues.
When CRS is a sub-recipient
- The start-up workshop builds on earlier start-up planning and discussions between CRS and partners (see Standard 6, key action 2 on early start-up planning, and Standard 9, key action 4 on project staff recruitment).
- For projects wherein CRS hires a new PM/CoP, CRS should inform partners when the PM/CoP is in place, and if possible, formally introduce the PM/CoP to the partners before the start-up workshop.
- Use the start-up workshop as an opportunity to foster trust among partners and a shared commitment to partnership principles that will guide CRS and partner relationships throughout the project. This is important for creating an enabling environment for adaptive management. For projects with consortium arrangements, CRS’ Consortium Alliance Framework for Excellence (CAFE) tool provides useful guidance.
- Plan how best to use the start-up workshop to foster a common understanding between CRS and partner project team members about the project and any changes since proposal submission, including changes to project design and implementation requirements (see Standard 7, key action 1 for guidance on project validation).
- Use the start-up workshop as an opportunity to review progress and challenges in moving forward with other aspects of early start-up (see the early start-up calendar developed under Standard 6, key action 2), and to ensure that partners have the support they need from CRS for effective and timely start-up.
- Consider whether a modified version of the start-up workshop process described above is appropriate, depending on what the prime organizes and whether there is a second tier of sub-recipients under CRS.
If the project is part of a broader, ongoing emergency response, a start-up workshop may not be appropriate. For new emergency projects, telescope the steps above as needed based on project complexity and time.
Keep in mind the following when planning a start-up workshop for an emergency project:
- Staff orientation to project design assumptions, technical approaches, and donor requirements and expectations (budget flexibility, prior approval requirements, CRS-donor communication as the context evolves) during the start-up workshop is even more important in an emergency response given the limited time available for individual staff orientation.
- If CRS and/or partner project staff are new to emergency response, it is particularly important to highlight the following during start-up workshop orientation:
- The project team’s accountability for achieving the high-level results in the project or wider emergency response results framework Given the fluid nature of emergencies, specific activities and targets can and should be revised as needed.
- The flexibility to adjust plans based on contextual changes that most emergency donors allow and even encourage.
- The importance of frequent and timely communication with project donors when implementation issues arise or new needs are identified in the dynamic response context (see Standard 15, key action 2 for guidance on donor communication).
Policies and procedures
- Primary responsible: Project manager/chief of party (PM/CoP)