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Yesterday I gave some general feedback on last week’s Doing Development Differently conference. How did this particular construct come to be so all powerful in the aid and development sphere? A project was seen as a capital investment, which was then (in principle, often not in practice) maintained by the recipient government. That meant that when the disease struck the countries they were working in, they were able to go to the governments in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and say, do you want us to get out of the way (as you won’t be doing much on education, infrastructure etc until this is over)? So as a thought experiment, what would be a way to disburse aid without using projects, and in a way that is more compatible with the kind of models discussed at last week’s seminar? Fund people, not projects: This happens in lots of other areas, from Howard Hughes genius grants to scholarships and fellowships. Then there is Payment by Results (although if you define the results very narrowly, and stick in lots of milestones and benchmarks, it starts to look a lot like a project).
This is a conversational blog written and maintained by Duncan Green, strategic adviser for Oxfam GB and author of ‘From Poverty to Power’.
Payment by Results hasn’t produced much in the way of results, but aid donors are doing it anyway.
Nice post Duncan, I have been pondering such a question ever since I read Rondinelli’s book Development Projects as Policy Experiments. Thanks for raising this, project-based funding came up regularly as an issue for Womankind’s partner organisations when I was there.
The lack of flexible funding to cover core costs or capacity building is a major problem for women’s rights organisations generally, given the socially transformative outcomes they are working towards.
5 years is rational because research shows that the timeframe for people in leadership positions horizon for comfortably managing uncertainty is around five years. Clearly the nature of the governance model will differ in different circumstances (governance rights are complex if we are talking about public sector bodies) and would have to be carefully designed to make sure that the funded institution is sufficiently independent so as not to be entirely captured by its donor. A similar issue comes up amongst Development Finance Institutions (those of us who invest for-profit capital in the private sector for development outcomes). The suggestion of funding institutions in return for some role in governance or decision making is excellent. One problem is that if you take any particular ministry in a developing country there will be (at least) 20 different donors fighting between themselves for seats on the board and undercutting the conditions they place on use of their funds. A major flaw of the project model is that there are simply too many projects, and this is a result of there being too many donors. Another good model I’ve seen is World Vision Area Development Programs that go into a particular community and commit to flexible support for 10 years.
I have ?23 million of proposals submitted in the last 2 years – strong proposals for programmes in 31 countries globally including DRC, Myanmar, Chad, Somaliland, Guatemala. Also worth noting that there is massive variation already in the nature of projects, so throwing the whole notion out might be over the top? I’m not convinced by the usefulness of having these conversations in complete isolation from donor domestic politics. This form of value-add would do wonders for development activities in the Pacific where we are awash with research but none of it’s being used. The project as an approach to fund development is appropriate only to the extent to which the final customer is involved in the leadership, analysis, programming, consulting, documentation, operation, billing and support.
Complementing projects and other initiatives toward long term programming, can we invest in building leadership and management capabilities among development actors to move away from traditional planning processes to processes that better take into account the complexity of the challenges they are addressing? There are a lot of people (or let’s say warriors) out there who have been able to do some of what we are asking, but almost under cover trying to fit into the guise of a project…. A project was supposed to be a strict, but limited building block within a wider political framework. Concluding, a lot of problems of the project approach are in fact not linked to the logframe itself but to the rigidity and fickleness of donors.
PS, finding your blogs older than a few days became more difficult on your homepage lately. Sorry for posting more, but I had an insight while driving in the storm along the lake to find some basil and mint seedlings to plant on my terrace.
Here I am uploading MBA Project (MBA project management) report for MBA final Year student.
This century is all upon depending on the technology and if technology would not available then it was impossible for the world to move on the steps of the Developments.
Before some year’s internet was only used in the higher government, and co-operate offices but now in all streams like home,offices,shops, schools and colleges are also using the internet services. Internet services are very useful for every human, since it is been invented in the market. Project management is really just about managing change so that “people get things done” on time and on budget.
No two projects are alike, however, with our extensive IT experience we can help scope and define the objectives in terms of expectations of time, cost and quality, and then manage the project and ensure everything goes smoothly from day one, through to its successful conclusion.

How do I protect myself from online identity theft?How do I protect myself from online identity theft? Early projects produced something concrete – such as a power station or hospital – but by the 1970s the United Nations specialised agencies were using the project model for an expanded range of objectives, such as the ILO Youth Training Centres Project that gave me my first job as a development professional. Andy Ratcliffe of the Africa Governance Initiative, which supports government reform processes in West Africa, told me that they were only able to respond properly to the Ebola crisis because their funding has come from more flexible sources like Foundations and individuals (it apparently still helps having Tony Blair as your patron).
Instead, Liberia and Sierra Leone asked them to stay and help manage relations with donors: ‘AGI is a friend in need – we know you’re on our side, please stay and help’. Are there better ways than projects to fund relationships, trust-building, facilitation, brokering etc?
This personal reflection is not intended as a comprehensive statement of Oxfam's agreed policies. The best alternative I have heard of to date is the approach of the Asian Coalition for Community Action programme, which utilises a more flexible community finance model to help fund locally driven initiatives.
It has helped me (an observer in the public galleries) understand how one donor country (Netherlands) via its focus on fields in which it excels (food security, water, sexual and reproductive health and rights, security and the rule of law) has contributed to the progress made towards MDSs.
However, alternatives include core funding, building flexible long term relationships tested against results, offering expertise, and timing interventions against the actual timeframes to achieve a putative outcome whether three weeks or twenty years! I do however think that enshrining the governance rules and relationship via something formal like a board may turn out to be less pernicious than short-term project-by-project funding that makes the reliance more significant in practice even if it is less formal. If all of them are allowed to join it will be chaos as they will have different priorities and systems for monitoring and reporting on use of funds. Approaching things in this way might helpfully focus attention on specific problems with projects and how they might be changed. The over-emphasis on funding distorts incentives and undermines creativity within civil society.
An example that come to mind is that of knowledge sharing and brokering – by its very nature it is something that has to work across projects, programmes and involves coordinating with individuals and organisations from multiple sectors. Negating the project approach, instead of addressing its functional inefficiencies, is like throwing out the baby with the bath water. Clearly the time frame of projects without any commitment or thinking around issues that may need longer is problematic… can these be adjusted to enable development actors to make longer term commitments and investments in people and issues?
Can we develop projects and initiatives that specifically support organizations to adapt to make them fit-for-purpose to address complex challenges?
I agree with everything you say except for one thing: If we want really to go to a system of doing things differently in development, the project (small p, not Capital P) will, probably, be the central building block. Agile project approaches in IT: In programming, the classical long term planning in projects has been abandoned long time ago.
This article (MBA Project Management Report) contains the thinking type and alertness of the computer users (computer operator) on the internet service (uses).
As told India is ranked very second place in the world population ranking and about 87 million people uses the internet services. In today’s market streams use the internet which creates an important stream in the faculty’s success.
Simple when you put it that way, but there are so many evolving technologies available today, it’s no surprise organisations want to be able to hand their project over to a safe pair of experienced hands who can ensure it meets its objectives and delivers the required benefits. Back then, in addition to providing Third World governments with ‘manpower’ for health, education and other services along with some budget support, international aid provided infrastructure projectised in the same manner as the construction of roads, bridges,etc. Although by then aid agencies perceived development as more complicated than initially thought and needing more than bridges and roads, the project had become the default aid instrument. Switching like that would have been much harder had they been stuck in a rigid project funding format. You could have a graduation system, where aid funds a number of apprenticeships, and then the best are given longer term fellowships? I much prefer (as is standard amongst the best private sector investors I know) thinking about investing in companies or entrepreneurs – which (to my biases) implies collaboration, open-endedness and the aim of building a successful and sustainable enterprise (albeit perhaps one that after 10 years looks quite different to what people thought it would look like at the beginning). This means the community has time to embed the processes and practices and is more likely to continue activities after the period of the donor assistance has finished (also of course provides more time for results to be achieved rather than made up in the final project report ;-)). Very good at supporting innovation, ultimately flexible, the challenge being that you need cash to invest up front. As the sector is slowly but surely seeing the fundamental importance of solid gender and governance analysis, programming and partnerships, organisations like WOMANKIND Worldwide, Equality Now and programmes like Raising Her Voice surely deserve more support. I find it hard to picture a scenario where funds for development are not being allocated up from an allocated pot within a bureaucracy. Of course large-scale infrastructure etc needs funding, as do smaller projects but it is amazing what you can get done with very small amounts of money- with the Accountability Lab, all of our projects are $5,000 or less. Hence the aid projects that have been ongoing for years without any indication that they are really having the intended impact.
Can learning be incentivised (in projects and from communities, other projects, previous projects)? And, can we invest in leadership and learning networks at the front lines – among field officers, extension workers, animators?
The current project approach however has become a dinosaur unrecognisable from its lizard origins.

It was a liberation to define actually what you were aiming for, making the participatory problem tree putting the beneficiaries central (with Paris, the government and not the poor are central now), solution tree (now called political economy), the risks and to focus on what you really wanted (do you remember a project was supposed to have ONLY ONE objective if there were more they had to have an hierarchy). Small, limited projects, limited in time, bureaucracy and budget, can be exactly what is needed for agile development. As donor policies fruit only under the following donor government, normally with a different development minister, I would not bed on it. People settled in the urban Countries were taken under the survey by the IMRB (Indian Market Research Bureau) about who use the Internet service regularly. Sue to the increment of technology each passing day there are various applicability advantage in the society. Our best technology will help the people in various fields the work and for the people who needs or provides the information’s. It produced the patent absurdity of a single management structure, budget and determined time frame for ambitious and nebulous concepts such as meeting basic needs through integrated rural development. Or standing arrangements for mentoring and coaching, for example by retired politicians and civil servants who know how reforms work and get blocked?
Expecting small, local NGOs sit down and write complicated logframes and project proposals, in English, is a ridiculous idea. However, having a prize to aim for could be a useful spur – Donors could grant money to agencies or communities specifying simply that the money be used to make a competitive attempt at winning the prize.
This allows for synergy, accountability and is a lot more fun for everyone, frankly, than filling in logframes. Can projects be encouraged to pay attention to social analysis and address underlying causes of poverty?
Just like with Doing Development Differently, it is often better to build incrementally on what you have than to jump large scale etc. The core of translating the problem tree to the objective tree would now be called the theory of change.
With the Scrum, you normally keep your goal, but can change course in a very fundamental way.
In theory, recipient governments presented fully designed projects for funding and the aid agency then appraised their viability and relevance. Yet, external support to development at the local level without projects had become inconceivable. It means that only those organisations who can afford an international consultant, and have at least one English speaker in management get the funds -which isn’t necessarily the organisations that provide the best services, do effective advocacy, or whatever it is the donor is trying to support. So for me it’s a question of looking at why our bureaucracies look the way they do, and asking if and how we can change them.
I would argue that if you need more than a few years (except for a big engineering project) a project approach is probably wrong, or even it would be better to scale down the ambition and split it up.
Donors have a new fad: act as if the World Bank imaginary line for Middle Income Countries is a real frontier and they stop every funding.
Projects could be short term and small, fail often and fail fast, I don’t see this kind of generalised behaviour in Donors. The problems are mostly related to size: projects should be minimal building blocks within a wider framework.
In practice, aid agencies, equipped with budgets that had to be spent in a timely manner, actively encouraged recipients to think of useful schemes that fitted the project paradigm. Of course, I told superiors only I was formulating a strategy when it was already finished, they would have agreed with the participatory and iconoclastic approach. As bureaucratic costs grow, the minimal budget grows, as we don’t move under 5 million. Personal trust becomes sufficient basis for funding, what it should not be for dinosaur projects. Can organizations and projects that truly build learning relationships, that challenge the status quo and are accountable to impact populations be supported with some core funding to strengthen their capabilities? Seen from the bottom, the behaviour of donors is purely random, although the top down view is smooth.
Another key step could be defining outcomes as results that *other people* achieve with the outputs of our work, which helps shift the focus. This is why we crave long term projects: some certainty that funding for a commitment has some length. Luckily many field staff are already skilled at managing the madness of fitting social processes into project boxes. Get rid of the long term project and this fickleness will immediately translate in a funding switch.

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