Project Profile Formats
Completing the profile is an important step forward for any applicant in appropriate format, whether they be a community, group or even an individual. Preparing the profile will help them to see much more clearly the key elements involved in the proposal, from the overall investment required to the costs incurred in keeping it running. It will make them think about the market that the project will face and the income that the project might generate, if it is for-profit, or the strength of demand and the cost per beneficiary, if it is a not-for-profit project. Equally importantly, it will give them a broad idea as to whether the proposed project makes sense – either as a money earner, or as a cost to the group or community that will have to be met every year once the project is fully functional. Getting to this stage will frequently involve considerable discussion within the group, and often will require many compromises, as the scale of the project, and the number of activities that it will include, has to be rethought to match with reality.
Not all profiles will emerge from the evaluation process with positive results. This does not mean that the idea should be immediately abandoned. It may be that changing the number or scale of activities will render an unattractive project viable, or that the nature of the product needs to be rethought to better fit the type of demand foreseen. Remember, however, that ‘cooking’ the results to ensure a positive outcome helps no one. One of the roles of the local technician is to help the applicants to see which ideas make sense and which don’t. If a project seems to make no sense but the group still wants to push ahead with it, it is likely that they have other reasons for favouring the proposal that have not emerged during the profile preparation. The group may not always be honest with a visiting technician, or it may simply be that they have not expressed clearly some of the key reasons why the project is desirable to the group. Either way, it is the technician’s job to try and understand what these ‘hidden’ reasons may be, and to bring them out into the open so the profile can more accurately portray the real situation.
An alternative problem may arise if more than one proposal seems to be viable, and the group can only make a single submission for detailed analysis and eventual financing. Unless the differences between the completed profiles are very large (e.g. the cost of investment is repaid in 2.5 years in one profile but in 15 years in the other), the evaluation process presented here is simply not sufficiently accurate or detailed to select between different proposals. Where the viable profiles include both income generating and a non-income generating projects the profile evaluation process can provide no help at all: these two types of projects are simply not comparable. If both production of eggs for the local market and the construction of a community day care seem feasible, other guidance is needed. It is here that the importance of a proper community development plan becomes apparent; if group objectives and priorities have been clearly thought out beforehand, then there will already exist a basis for selecting between these two alternatives.
In most cases, some form of higher approval will be required before a community can access the resources it needs for full project preparation or – where the project is very small – it can obtain the financing for implementation. Normally this will involve the technician who has been working with the group presenting the profile to the financing or projects committee of the supporting agency, but it is always preferable if one or more of the applicants can attend the meeting, so as to ensure full community involvement. The faster the approval process, the easier it is to maintain the interest and commitment of the applicants. If it takes six months before the technician can return to the applicants with approval to move to the next stage, the proposal may have been largely forgotten in the worries of everyday life, and the technician will have a much harder job to get the group together once more to start work on the full-scale preparation process.