This is a subsection of the fundraising lexicon developed as part of the GFMD MediaDev fundraising guide.
Activities are the basic workstreams of a project which are physically implemented according to an agreed timeline.
In media development projects, common activities include training workshops, programme production, website development, discussion forums, legal drafting, collective lobbying, networking and study tours.
Activities are quantifiable and time-bound. They are also fully costed.
Alternatively, activities may be grouped according to phases of an implementation cycle, running consecutively or concurrently.
Project authors are encouraged to recognise and document the factors that should be in place for a project to be viable.
According to the EU, the assumptions are
Usually based at the implementing organisation’s headquarters, the backstopping team supports the implementation team which, in most cases, is based in the field. It can comprise senior managers and executives as well as logistics officers, technical staff and finance personnel.
Typically, responsibilities include recruitment; strategic oversight; briefing, contracting and deploying short-term consultants; knowledge management; and partner liaison. The backstopping team deals with contractual issues, including agreements with consortium partners.
It is, therefore, used to measure change and monitor progress over the project lifecycle and is often assembled in the opening phase.
Monitoring and evaluation programmes need a starting point, a baseline against which progress can be measured. Sometimes this data is available from third-party sources but, for the most part, baseline research needs to be bespoke and properly geared to the anticipated results and targets of a programme.
In behavioural change communications, for example, the research may need to establish existing attitudes towards a target issue so that future waves of polling can establish whether or not these attitudes have changed as a result of the intervention.
An organisation’s capability statement provides the donor or potential partners with an insight into its main areas of expertise and recent track record as well as its human and technical resources.
It should be relatively short (no more than a page) and capture the salient features of the organisation’s core business.
Examples of past performance included in a capability statement should be succinct and should be carefully selected to illustrate the required areas of expertise.
It is worth remembering that, in all proposals, donors are looking for reassurances that a potential implementing partner has
- The systems in place to manage contracts of a similar size and complexity;
- A reputation for excellence, innovation and thought leadership in the target theme(s);
- A sufficiently diverse portfolio that does not suggest over-reliance on one donor or funding source;
- A deep understanding of the operating environment.
Thus, capability statements should be tailored for each bid.
Too often, funding applications are rejected because they are not “compliant” with the rules and criteria set out in the Terms of Reference or submission guidelines. Several donors run compliance checks before applications are presented to the evaluators or evaluation committee.
These checks will include:
- the eligibility of the applicants (particularly nationality and legal status)
- the amount of funding requested
- co-funding requirements
- the inclusion of signed declarations or commitments
Proposals which fail the compliance checks may be immediately rejected – although some donors may ask for supplementary information if they are unsure whether or not certain criteria have been met.
Applications which do not respect the submission deadline are automatically rejected and there is little or no value in contesting this outcome.
It is, therefore, vital to study the instructions in detail and draw up a checklist to make sure that you have covered all the bases. Do not assume that a specific donor’s guidelines are always the same – eligibility criteria, for example, can vary from one programme to another.
Donors encourage implementing agencies to recognise and avoid the dangers of exacerbating the tensions or deepening the fault-lines that exist in post-conflict societies.
This is a key risk for media development projects operating in such environments, especially those where media has traditionally played a key role in fanning the flames of resentment or distrust.
Conflict-sensitive projects should include an in-depth analysis of dividers and connectors in the conflict environment which will, in turn, help to shape the intervention strategy.
In broad terms, the strategy should consider ways of ensuring the proper inclusion of diverse stakeholder groups in all consultation processes; equitable participation in project activities; monitoring to capture changes in the operating environment; and the consideration of conflict-related issues in organisational practices (e.g. recruitment and security).
A contingency plan should look at multiple scenarios whilst mainstreaming measures for safeguarding the project’s reputation and credibility.
These plans are live documents that should be reviewed and updated as a project unfolds.
While projects often comprise a set of linear or concurrent activity streams, there are likely to be elements that are relevant to multiple activities. Gender mainstreaming is a good example since a focus on the equality or empowerment of women stakeholders could be integral to a training programme and a production component that is part of the same project.
It is a product or service that the implementing agency has undertaken to deliver within a specified timeframe and for a specified budget.
Donors will expect applicants to reference appropriate measures in project proposals and, where relevant, to disaggregate indicators in order to reflect the impact on key identity groups.
The OECD provides the following definition:
“Doing no harm essentially means that external intervention does not undermine state-building processes. [International actors] can inadvertently do harm when the resources they deliver or the policy reforms they advocate exacerbate rather than mitigate the conditions for violent conflict, or they weaken rather than strengthen the state as a site of decision-making and policy formation over the deployment of public resources”.
Increasingly, donors require assurances regarding protection from violence, exploitation and abuse through involvement, directly or indirectly, with their suppliers and programmes.
“to avoid doing harm by ensuring that our interventions do not sustain unequal power relations, reinforce social exclusion and predatory institutions, exacerbate conflict, contribute to human rights risks, and/or create or exacerbate resource scarcity, climate change and/or environmental damage, and/or increasing communities’ vulnerabilities to shocks and trends. We seek to ensure our interventions do not displace/undermine local capacity or impose long-term financial burdens on partner governments”.
Do No Harm policies should look at areas such as staff conduct, local ownership, inclusion, diversity, conflict sensitivity and mechanisms for dealing with complaints.
This extends to contracted personnel, partner organisations and participants in project activities.
Duty of care plans should be equitable, offering similar levels of support to local as well as international stakeholders.
They cover issues such as risk assessment, physical security, digital security, safety training, knowledge management, emergency protocols, contingency plans and roles and responsibilities.
Contractors are often required to include a statement that they have a duty of care to informants, other programme stakeholders and their own staff, and that they will comply with ethical principles in all programme activities.
Adherence to this duty of care should be included in interim reporting.
Most funding programmes have strict eligibility criteria determining which organisations (or individuals) are able to apply for grants.
Typically, the criteria will include nationality (e.g. the country in which the organisation is registered) and legal status but they may also include requirements for applicants to demonstrate that they have delivered projects of a similar size, value and complexity in the recent past (often three years).
Donors do not make exceptions for eligibility criteria since they are fundamental to their commitment to fairness, openness and transparency. Consequently, they should be strictly adhered to.
Credible endline research will need to target the same identity groups as the baseline research, although it will aim to differentiate between those who have been exposed to the programme outputs and those who have not.
Evaluation usually comprises objective quantitative and/or qualitative research aimed at ascertaining whether or not a project has met its declared targets (as established through indicators for success).
Examples include opinion polls or sectoral surveys as well as analysis of audience figures or online traffic.
The EU offers the following definition:
“those who will benefit from the action in the long term at the level of the society or sector at large”.
Two examples from media development projects:
Final beneficiaries will typically be specific audiences or representatives of identity groups targeted by programming.
Gender considerations are mainstreamed in the vast majority of donor-funded programmes but the desired approach is often misinterpreted.
Equality is not as simple as ensuring that groups of participants are properly balanced between men and women or that research efforts will ensure that 50% of respondents are women.
Inclusion is important but empowerment and decision-making are also key factors.
Donors also want to see proposals that break gender stereotypes by putting women in non-traditional roles and that promote equal opportunities in recruitment drives.
Also called “objectively verifiable indicators” (OVIs), indicators provide donors with a yardstick for assessing the actual impact of a project. Indicators are usually linked to both outcomes and outputs and are, perhaps, most useful when they incorporate a numerical value (e.g. a percentage or a quantity).
According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office:
“Indicators are performance measures, which tell us what will be measured not what is to be achieved”.
They should be specific and relevant as well as being disaggregated where appropriate.
In media development projects, indicators of success will typically be linked to issues such as:
- The reach of programming
- Quantifiable shifts in attitudes or behaviour among both target groups and final beneficiaries
- Evidence of take-up for project outputs, including the application of new skills to practice
- Evidence of institutional change (e.g. adoption of policy or procedure)
- Audience engagement levels
Inputs represent the starting point for a Theory of Change, generally covering the amount of money provided by the donor as well as the project management resources and expertise deployed by both the donor and the implementing agency.
It is usually described through the formulaic use of “if”, “then” and “therefore” and is a handy way of articulating the logical progression of an idea.
The intervention logic may also include a description of linkages and relationships between activity clusters.
KPIs give donors the opportunity to assess how the implementing agency is performing in terms of meeting milestones, achieving high-quality standards and facilitating effective communications between stakeholders.
KPIs should be agreed upon at the beginning of a programme and mapped in progress reports. They may be revised if a project’s design and work plan undergo significant modifications due to unforeseen changes in the operating environment.
Typical KPIs include:
- Quality and delivery, including timely achievement of milestones and effective risk management
- Financial management and forecasting including cost controls and timely submission of forecasts and invoices
- Personnel performance, including appropriate levels of expertise allocated to the programme and ability to address problems with appropriate escalation channels
- Client relationship management, including responsiveness and the regularity of communications
- Environmental and social safeguards including efforts to minimise the impact on the environment and a proactive policy of employing local staff wherever possible
Donors have shown a keen interest in proper knowledge management in recent years. The aim is to capture learning generated by a project and to share it with stakeholders, both internally and externally.
Effective knowledge management can play an important role in ensuring that good practice models are made available to other actors operating in the same field while also giving media development organisations the chance to avoid common mistakes or misconceptions.
Another key aspect of knowledge management within projects is the ability to ensure business continuity during changes in personnel or partnerships.
The problem with knowledge management is that it rarely takes place outside the confines of specific programmes or organisations and is often enacted on closed platforms only. There are also issues of data protection and other sensitivities that make it problematic.
As noted above (under “Monitoring”), the value of examining lessons learned throughout a project is that this enables implementing organisations to align planned activities as closely as possible to the perceived needs and interests of stakeholders. This ensures that projects are properly adaptive, evolving over time.
Another key aspect of learning is the management of this knowledge, disseminating lessons learned to partners and other stakeholders, thereby bringing benefits on an institutional as well as a project level.
It offers project evaluators the opportunity to stress-test a project design by assessing the extent to which outcomes are realistic and the extent to which progress towards these outcomes can be measured. A logframe also provides project managers with a tool for monitoring progress and, potentially, for ensuring timely course-correction.
Donors tend to use different templates for logframes and some have abandoned them in favour of Theory of Change charts but they still represent the most common framework for project design, acting as a starting point for developing project ideas and also as a way of ensuring that partners and contributors have a shared vision of the programme.
Most donors accept that logframes are dynamic documents that should be revisited and updated as a project unfolds.
Implementing organisations should not be afraid to renegotiate proposed targets in order to properly manage expectations among key stakeholders.
For example, if the daily rate for an expert is €800 but the expert charges €500 per day, then the margin would be €300. Contractors use the margin or “profit” to cover their management and operating expenses.
It should also explain why certain techniques have been selected.
For example, when presenting the merits of on-the-job mentoring as the chosen approach for a capacity-building programme, a grant applicant might explain that mentoring can be more effective than classroom-based training because the learning-by-doing approach ensures that relevant skills are passed on in a practical work environment.
Monitoring is a regular activity that generates insights into a project’s progress and allows implementing agencies to learn from stakeholder feedback and, where necessary, recalibrate activities in line with this feedback.
Monitoring tools are often qualitative and might include focus groups, self-assessment questionnaires or key informant interviews.
A good example is social media listening aimed at capturing the audience’s response to content and audience engagement levels on key platforms.
This may be planned or unplanned but it is an important element of project reporting since multiplier effects offer donors value for money as well as a good insight into the wider impact and potential extension.
A good example of a multiplier or ripple effect is trained professionals imparting new skills to colleagues in the workplace.
According to the EU, an outcome is
“the likely or achieved short-term and medium-term effects of an Action’s outputs”.
The UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office defines it as
“the effect of the project which will be obtained at medium term and which tends to focus on the changes in behaviour resulting from project”.
They should capture the resonance of activities and outputs that is felt outside the project’s primary arena.
So, in the case of a journalism training programme, for example, the outcome is not the acquisition of skills but rather the result of applying these skills to practice.
In a project that produces media content, the outcome is not the volume or reach of the content but rather its effect on the audience, its ability to shape or influence public opinion.
In media development projects, outputs include tangible deliverables such as programming, publications and training materials as well as intangible benefits such as skills and know-how acquired by participants.
They can be used to measure shifts in behaviour and attitudes among target audiences.
Sometimes referred to as a super-goal, the project’s overall objective is a long-term programmatic aspiration that will stem from a combination of the project’s outcomes and those delivered by other interventions or processes.
In other words, the overall objective does not need to be achievable by the given project alone: long-term success will rely on progress being made across multiple strands of work, including the project.
The overall objective is sometimes presented as an impact statement which, according to DFID* guidance:
“may be nested within broader undertakings and may draw on the wider goals of a funder’s programme”.
These measures should be managed by named personnel who have a responsibility for ensuring that KPIs are met and that outputs are consistent. Various QA standards exist (e.g. IS0 9001), providing a tried-and-tested framework for project managers to use.
Examples might include a programme format or a business model which is developed in collaboration within one media outlet and which is then embraced by others.
The European Commission encourages contractors to apply a rights-based approach to all interventions.
This comprises a commitment to ensuring that human rights issues (economic, political, civil, cultural and social) are properly assessed, monitored and evaluated in all programmes.
Donors and implementing agencies should also ensure that rights-holders are given the opportunity to shape project strategies. This participation should prioritise marginalised groups.
Finally, activities should “promote accessible, transparent and effective mechanisms of accountability”, including providing proper access to information in local languages.
In general, the rights-based approach offers a range of best-practice models which can help to shape intervention methodologies and promote local ownership.
There are multiple formats for risk matrices but most divide risks into generic categories such as political, programmatic, reputational, economic, fiduciary and security-related risks.
The likelihood and potential impact of risks should be assessed, sometimes using a points-based system, thereby demonstrating the extent to which these risks can be managed and mitigated.
This area has much in common with 'duty of care' but generally relates to measures that are put in place to protect vulnerable groups from any negative consequences of being involved in development programmes.
Good examples include protections for women from conservative societies who are invited to take part in research studies or training opportunities.
Safeguarding policies may also cover the protection of data relating to individuals involved in activities that may be negatively viewed by informal power structures, peers or family members.
The security plan should address digital and information security as well as personal risk and external threats to business continuity.
It should describe the measures in place to protect project personnel from external threats and to extricate them from dangerous situations.
For projects with an in-country presence, other areas to be considered might include
- building security;
- due diligence when selecting premises for group activities (e.g. training);
- safe transport for staff and participants; protective equipment for hostile environments;
- and secure communications.
Ensuring the integrity of data is also key, therefore IT security measures need to be fully outlined.
SMART principles offer a useful framework for establishing and stress-testing project objectives.
SMART is an acronym that is usually taken to stand for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (although the “R” is sometimes given as “realistic”).
In a funding application, it can be helpful to use SMART principles to structure the discussion of your objectives. The bullet points below provide some pointers:
- Specific: state what the objective means in real terms, whom it will affect and how.
- Measurable: explain the metrics and mechanisms that will be used to chart progress towards the objective, using key indicators of success.
- Achievable: consider the assets, resources and methodologies that you will deploy in order to achieve the declared objective.
- Relevant: provide a brief insight into why this goal is necessary and how it responds to perceived needs within the given sector/theme.
- Time-bound: offer an indication of the timeframe required to deliver the activities that will enable you to work towards the objective.
Objectives are strategic and are likely to be long-term aspirations (as opposed to outcomes that are short- and medium-term).
The term is much abused and often misinterpreted.
EU applications ask for a treatment of sustainability under specific topic headings: institutional, policy, financial and environmental which give some insight into the areas in which a level of sustainability can be achieved.
Fundamentally, a discussion of sustainability should look at
For example, a journalism training programme could be deemed “sustainable” if its syllabus or learning aids were later adopted by a local centre offering professional training courses to journalists.
Equally, the sustainability of a TV programme might be assured if it were to be commissioned by a local TV channel at the end of the project.
Implementing agencies are encouraged to seek synergies with other organisations working in the same field, thereby ensuring that resources can be pooled where possible and that duplication of efforts can be avoided.
The identification of synergies is a vital aspect of effective coordination within a development community that relies on multiple grants from multiple sources and that does not necessarily operate according to a regional or national strategy.
They are generally informed by evidence from previous interventions and should be as realistic as possible, taking into account context, external influences and assumptions.
It is a mistake to be overly ambitious, since this may later lead to a perception that the project has overpromised and underachieved.
Targets should be disaggregated where possible.
They are, according to the EU:
“groups/entities who will directly benefit from the action at the action purpose level”.
The target group of a journalism training programme would be the individuals who are eligible to attend the courses.
The target group of a legal reform programme would be the law-makers and other interlocutors who are directly involved in developing the new legislation and who will be asked to implement it.
Target groups are often quantifiable and, in some cases, may be very small.
Effectively, applicants need to demonstrate that they have the resources, experience and methodologies needed to achieve the project’s goals as well as a deep understanding of the operating environment and context in which the project will unfold.
The financial offer should also be competitive but this is not simply a question of undercutting the rival consortia. Usually, the scoring matrix is weighted in favour of the technical offer, so a very strong proposal can win a tender, even if the financial offer is not the lowest of those submitted.
For EU tenders, the common wisdom is that bidders should put in a price that is between 8% and 12% lower than the maximum budget allowed. However, there are plenty of examples of successful bids that have sailed much closer to the wind.
A Theory of Change can be developed for any level of intervention – an event, a project, a programme, a policy, a strategy or an organisation. It leads to improved evaluation since progress towards the long-term goals can be measured through the results chain.
A Theory of Change is often presented as a graphic that comprises a series of boxes from inputs to outputs to outcomes and, finally, to impact. It thus provides a more visual perception of a project’s raison d’être than a logical framework.
According to DFID*:
“The purpose of VfM is to develop a better understanding and better articulation of costs and results so that we can make more informed, evidence-based choices.”
UK government donors recommend that VfM is considered in four key areas: economy, efficiency, effectiveness and equity. These markers demonstrate how costs will be kept to an acceptable level but also how funds will be fairly distributed with a focus on proper inclusion.
VfM approaches should include a process of continuous improvement and an agreed set of VfM indicators should be monitored on a regular basis, then presented in interim reports and annual reviews.
The requirement for projects to be “visible” and, in particular, to acknowledge the source of their funding in external communications varies from programme to programme and is often modulated according to local sensitivities and security concerns in the target country (or region).
As a rule, donors want the funding source to be recognised and will make exceptions only when this might compromise the safety of implementing organisations and beneficiaries.
Major funders such as the EU have an extensive set of guidelines relating to the presentation of their emblem and the phraseology of the acknowledgement.
Some also seek to determine the positioning of the implementing organisation’s branding in relation to their own.
For larger programmes, issues of visibility need to be addressed in a communications plan which details the platforms and measures which will be taken in order to promote the project and share its outputs.