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.

Update/refine the proposal activities schedule to develop a comprehensive detailed implementation plan for the first year of the project.

  • Why

    Most proposals include an activities schedule that summarizes project activities, the planned timing for each activity and the individuals or organizations responsible for carrying them out. Proposal activities schedules are not sufficiently detailed to guide project implementation, however, which makes the development of a project detailed implementation plan (DIP) an essential step in the project start-up process. Developing a DIP through a participatory process helps to ensure that:

    • The right activities, performed at the right time and in the right order produce the intended outputs and impact, on time and on budget.
    • Members of the project implementation team fully understand, agree to, and own important decisions about the sequencing, timing, responsibilities for, and relationships between project activities.
    • The project implementation team carefully analyzes project implementation risks, issues, and opportunities, and incorporates appropriate activities into the DIP to manage risks and issues, and to optimize opportunities.

    What is a DIP? A DIP is a schedule of activities and sub-activities that includes sufficient detail to facilitate smooth and effective project implementation. Every project needs a DIP. DIPs are usually presented in the form of a table. The project’s initial DIP documents:

    • What is to be accomplished over the course of the entire project for successful implementation—with an emphasis on defining what is to be accomplished within the first 12 months of the project.
    • When the activities will be accomplished and how they will be sequenced.
    • Who specifically on the project team is responsible for each activity and who else participates
    • The milestones managers will track to ensure the project stays on schedule.
  • When

    Per the timeline developed in the early start-up plan and any donor requirements.For example, USAID agreements typically require submission of an “annual work plan” within 45 days of award. Generally:

    • 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

    Start-up and DIP workshops: For complex projects and projects with a consortium or numerous implementing partners, consider separating the start-up and DIP workshops (see Project Start-up Key Meetings and Events for more details on workshop sequencing and focus). For a complex project, organizing a separate, earlier start-up workshop may:

    • Help ensure that the team that will develop the DIP has a solid understanding of the project fundamentals before starting detailed implementation planning.
    • Offer more time for building rapport and perspective among potentially diverse consortium/partner staff who will work together on DIP planning.
    • Provide an opportunity to identify information to collect and other preparatory activities that can help DIP workshop participants use workshop time more effectively.
    • Help organizers make the best use of participants’ time. For example, senior management should participate in big-picture start-up workshop discussions but may not need to be involved in the details of DIP planning.
  • Partnership
    • Participation of experienced partner programming and operations staff in the DIP workshop and wider DIP development process is essential to ensure that the DIP reflects the field and partner realities. It also contributes to shared CRS and partner understanding of organizational and individual roles and responsibilities for project implementation.
    • Based on the activities and sub-activities identified in the overall project DIP, partner staff develops unit and staff work plans, with support from CRS as needed.
    • Partner staff directly involved in project programming and operations activities also participate in quarterly reviews and updates of the DIP and annual development of subsequent DIPs (see Standard 11, key action 4).  
  • When CRS is a sub-recipient
    • CRS should have developed a project early start-up plan to guide implementation of project start-up activities prior to the prime’s DIP process. However, even as a sub-recipient, CRS needs to develop a DIP for the full implementation of activities for which CRS and any second-level CRS sub-recipients are responsible. In some projects, the CRS PM may decide that CRS and any partners should develop a preliminary DIP before participating in DIP development activities led by the prime, and finalize the CRS DIP after the prime’s process. In other cases, the PM may decide to wait to organize CRS and partner-level DIP development until after the finalization of the overall project DIP.
    • Reach out to the prime early in the start-up process to inquire about the timing of the prime’s DIP development process and confirm CRS’ participation in the process. Participating in the overall project DIP development process helps ensure that the project DIP timelines and responsibilities reflect CRS’ and any CRS partners’ understanding of the operating context, programming realities and best practice. It also helps establish appropriate and realistic expectations and responsibilities for CRS and any partners.
    • Whenever possible, both the CRS PM and technical staff (programming and operations, as applicable) should represent CRS. Make sure that any CRS staff member contributing to the development of the overall project DIP brings a strong understanding of the project implementation context and local realities.  
    • After receiving the final DIP from the prime, review it with other CRS and CRS sub-recipient partner project staff. CRS and partners use this information to develop or finalize their own project DIP, as well as team and individual workplans.
  • Emergency projects