We provide advice and support with designing effective project plans and proposals.
We carry out quite a few evaluations of inclusive education projects, often end-of-project rather than mid-term evaluations. One of the evaluation findings that concerns us the most is when we discover that a project plan was fundamentally flawed from they start. When this happens, no matter how hard project staff and stakeholders work, they were unlikely to achieve the objectives or changes expected.
Common problems with inclusive education project plans and funding proposals include:
- Illogical theories of change: There is often an unreasonable expectation for the changes that will result from the inputs given. The most common misunderstanding we encounter is the assumption that a few one-off, short, theoretical training sessions will create inclusive teachers, high quality teaching, and inclusive, accessible schools. At best, a short, isolated training will raise teachers’ basic awareness of diversity, rights and/or inclusion, but it will not achieve much bigger changes in how and what teachers teach and how schools operate.
- We can use our extensive global experience to help organisations develop plans based on realistic and logical theories of change.
- Over-ambitious timescales and pressure to ‘look busy’: Inclusive education is an ongoing process of gradual change in attitudes, policies and practices. The speed of change, and the inputs needed to bring about change, will be different in every country or school community, depending on the starting point, the available resources, and the nature of persistent barriers. There is no quick fix formula. Unfortunately, the funding conditions imposed by many donors inevitably push organisations to develop plans that squeeze inclusive education projects into timescales that are far too short, often just one or two years. We see many project plans that have expected to achieve a fast-track to inclusive education, and in most cases, they found they could not achieve this.Often what happens is that organisations feel pressured to make their project look like it has done a lot in a short time, by using high profile, highly visible activities or activities that appear to reach a lot of people. Publishing a training manual, for instance, or rolling out a short, one-off training course to hundreds of teachers through a cascade approach can make a project look very active. However, these activities may bring about only limited or unsustainable changes in the longer-term. We know from experience that some of the most important and sustained changes towards inclusion often happen as a result of less visible and slower actions.
- We can help organisations to develop effective project plans that are attractive to donors without promising unrealistic changes or using activities that look good but don’t achieve much long term.
- Top-down planning: For 20 years or more participation has been a key word in international development. However, we still see too many project plans that have been developed entirely by project managers or advisers, with no input from the stakeholders who will ultimately be involved in and affected by the project.
- We can help design and facilitate accessible and meaningful consultation processes, so that projects are co-designed by stakeholders.
- Budgets spread too thinly: Because inclusive education is such a complex process, many organisations fall into the trap of trying to make one project tick every box. We see many plans that seek to change policy, train teachers, upgrade school infrastructure, provide accessible materials, set up school management committee structures, and more, all with relatively modest budgets. While it is fantastic when organisations recognise the holistic nature of inclusive education interventions, it is also vital that they do not ‘spread themselves too thinly’. It is often more effective to invest properly in one area of intervention, than to only scratch the surface of multiple different interventions. The key to success is often to ‘do a good job’ in the one area of intervention that bests suits the organisation’s mandate and expertise, and then develop partnerships with other organisations who can work to a high quality in the other areas. No organisation – on its own – can do everything that needs to be done to achieve inclusive education.
- We can help organisations define their specific niche within inclusive education, and identify ways to develop local and global partnerships to ensure their intervention is part of a holistic approach.
If you would like to find out more about how we can support project planning and proposal writing, please contact us.
Please note that due to contractual obligations we are not able to publish online the project plans and proposal that we help to develop, but if you contact us we can show you samples of work.