Good impact is reflective of a company’s CSR efforts and cannot be achieved without critical deliberations on such efforts and their designs. A good project design in CSR determines the nature and volume of the impact and is therefore, both necessary and important. With the growing need for improving and innovating implementation processes, companies are now inculcating effective project designing techniques to amplify their impact. Community initiatives are now becoming far more than just project based activities and communities themselves are now transitioning from being beneficiaries to being stakeholders. A good project design takes all these factors into account and ensures that the desired outcomes are achieved holistically.
Keeping in mind the existing scenario, the following are the 10 essentials to be kept in mind while designing a project:
1. Participatory planning: Participatory planning involves inputs from all the key stakeholders in project conceptualizing. It creates a platform for co creation and ownership and determines a more feasible and sensitive design towards stakeholder needs. The idea behind such a method of planning is to achieve desired goals in a collaborative way. Such a method brings relevancy and purpose in a project and can supersede expected outcomes both in quantity and quality.
2. Issue Focus: While planning a project the company also needs to keep in mind the choice and nature of the project according to the boundaries of its CSR policy. There are several ways of innovating projects within an issue which can suit both the stakeholders and the company’s CSR agenda. This is where the companies need to lead the processes (without influencing it) and make sure that the new focus issue is aligned to its CSR goals. Setting up accurate boundaries and scope of the project helps in eliminating wastage of time, energy, and resources.
3. Direct implementation VS partner implementation: Implementation design is a very important factor in actualizing success in a project. It is the basis of determining the efficiency of your resources and ensuring maximum positive impact. The need to go for a direct implementation or through a partner organization is dependent on several factors like:
• Nature of project- Whether the company has internal resources with the kind of expertise required for the project or not and whether it seems more feasible to collaborate with experts on the project.
• Availability of resources- Manpower, time, and financial resources
• Expertise- Thorough understanding of not only the issue but the target community, culture, and practices
• Geographic coverage: Accessibility, reach, understanding of community, language, and ease of ensuring smooth operation.
4. Implementing Partners: Selection of implementing partners is critical and efforts should be made on getting the experts on board. It is crucial that the partners not only meet the technical knowledge aspect but also the accountability and reporting standards that the companies adhere to.
5. Realistic Targets: Determining feasible targets is tricky, the idea is not to be too ambitious nor too conservative while putting both quantitative and qualitative target figures. It’s best to reach a healthy combination of the two as projects with quantitative targets can fail to address and highlight qualitative achievement and vice versa. If a project is new or experimental in nature, it is ideal that the duration of the project is kept short to roll it out as a pilot project first. If the project is already in an expansion stage or is being replicated, longer duration projects can be envisioned. The role and responsibilities of the company is important and it should be in line to maximizing the project’s efficiency.
6. Project team: Whether the project is directly implemented or through a partner, a good project team is vital to the implementation of the project. They are the front runners in the project and are representative of the company’s brand and its initiative. It is vital to have people in the team who don’t only meet the necessary professional requirements but also have the essential value systems that the company holds dear. Hiring local staff members is often seen as a good practice because it benefits in easy mobilization of the community, access to field areas, good understanding of the local practices, politics, and systems. Maintaining gender parity and sensitivity towards diversity in project teams reflects well on company’s own ideologies and policies.
7. Resources: While planning for resources, it’s good to first analyse resources that are already available and those that can be raised or leveraged from other stakeholders without hurting their sentiments or their ability to contribute. Pooling resources not only makes a project cost effective but it also helps in diverting extra resources in projects and initiatives where it is more needed.
8. Transparency & accountability measures: It is important to integrate transparency and accountability systems at the onset of the project, within the project design itself. It helps in articulating ownership and accountability amongst stakeholders. Regular feedback mechanisms at stakeholder, team and community level helps in aligning the projects to its goal and in defraying bottlenecks. Accurate reporting and evaluation mechanism can help the company in documenting and disseminating best practices and ascertaining do’s and don’ts for other projects as well.
9. Impact: Good social impact can be ascertained in many ways, sometimes quantitatively, sometimes qualitatively and sometimes in both ways. Based on the nature of project intervention, companies can set expected outcomes and deliverable and determine the nature of the project impact. As a good practice, impact should clearly reflect on how the project has added value to the lives of people the project was catering to, keeping aspects of gender and diversity in mind.
10. Sustainability: Emphasis on sustainability of a good project is important as it helps the stakeholders, especially the target communities for a longer period. Designing processes and ensuring continuity of the project in such a way that the project continues even after the company withdraws/ completes the project duration. Projects which are not sustainable seldom reflect good social impact and mostly have a superficial impact.
A good project design can incorporate all these factors and can be further improved upon by layering additional factors based on the past project implementation experiences. The designing team therefore needs to give ample time to this process and must make sure that the important elements are not overlooked or left out.