3a. Choosing the right subject for your project
In chapter 2, we briefly touched on the importance of project selection as an early consideration in developing a successful proposal. This chapter continues the discussion of the importance of project selection. This can be thought of as choosing the right subject for your project before you begin designing the project.
The key message is that we do not just randomly pick a project out of the sky or fish one from the sea. Rather, all projects (not just climate change adaptation projects) should be part of larger, coordinated efforts to bring about change in our communities and countries.
From a practical perspective, this means that you must link your project proposal to existing efforts to decrease vulnerability and increase resilience to climate change. Project proposals generally do this by referring to existing strategies, policies, and priorities that have already been established by the national government, a subnational government (e.g., state, municipality), the local community as described in local planning documents (e.g., Local Early Action Plan, or LEAP), and other relevant stakeholders.
Creating these linkages will strengthen your project in the following ways:
- Demonstrate ownership. This means that the project is a priority of the national government and the local community; these stakeholders “own” the project. This indicates that the project responds to a local need and originates from the people who stand to benefit from (and be affected by) the project, and that the project is not being imposed by an external entity. This is a very important consideration for climate funders. Proposals that do not address the stated needs of the community are not likely to be funded.
- Demonstrate acceptability. Another important and related consideration is that the project is acceptable to the people in the target community. This helps to demonstrate that the project will effectively meet the needs of the community. There are many examples of projects that have failed because they have not been consistent with local expectations. Linking your project to the priorities that the target beneficiaries themselves have identified helps to avoid this problem.
- Demonstrate sustainability. In the case of projects, the word “sustainable” has a specific meaning: the benefits of the project (the outputs and outcomes, see Chapter 6) will continue after the project is completed. When you design a project, you want to make sure that the target community continues to benefit from the goods or services the project provides even after it is completed. One aspect of sustainability, especially in the case of small grants projects, involves the community taking care of or maintaining whatever the project builds. If your proposal cannot demonstrate this, it is unlikely to be funded. Projects that are consistent with already-identified needs and priorities of the community are generally more likely to be sustainable and hence to receive funding.
- Demonstrate efficiency. Reviewing existing policies, plans, strategies, and initiatives helps to ensure that your project will not duplicate the work that other stakeholders are implementing and that your project will complement, build on, and enhance efforts that are already underway.
In the next section we will provide some guidance that will help you ensure that your proposal is consistent with existing policies, strategies, and frameworks.
3b. Finding the “fit” for your project
You will always need to demonstrate how your proposal is aligned with existing frameworks. For reference, here are some questions taken from actual small grant application templates:
- How is the project in line with national, state, or local plans/efforts and desired long-term outcomes?
- How is the project aligned with the identified priorities of the community’s management plan?
- Indicate how the proposal aligns with the national priorities of your country as set out in the National Development Plan, the UNFCCC-submitted Nationally Determined Contribution, the National Adaptation Plan, and other relevant strategy documents.
- Describe how ownership of national and subnational stakeholders will be assured.
- Specify whether there are any other related national/regional ongoing or planned initiatives.
The key objective here is to demonstrate that your project reinforces and advances the priorities that your national, subnational, and local governments have already identified, as described in the relevant documents and action plans. Following the steps laid out below will help to ensure that your project proposal considers each of these elements.
Step 1: Identify linkages to national policies and strategies related to climate change.
As noted, each country has its own strategy and policy context, but most countries in the Pacific have a Joint National Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management (JNAP) or some similar document that describes the overarching goals and priorities of the country with respect to climate change. For example, the JNAP 2014-18 of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) describes six priorities:
- Establish and support an enabling environment for improved disaster risk management/climate change adaptation in the Marshall Islands
- Public education and awareness of effective climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk management (DRM) from local to national level
- Enhanced emergency preparedness and response at all levels within the Marshall Islands
- Improved energy security, working towards a low carbon future for the Marshall Islands
- Enhanced local livelihoods and community resilience for all Marshall Islands people
- Integrated approach to development planning including consideration of climate change and disaster risks
Most of these priorities are fairly broad, and so it is not difficult to ensure that project proposals are aligned with at least one of the priorities.1In general, however, the more meaningful linkages you can create the better. For example, any sort of capacity development (conducting workshops or training sessions, developing curricula) would be aligned with the second priority. Any project elements aimed at improving planning would be aligned with the sixth priority. The fifth priority would apply to any projects aimed at reducing disaster risk, improving food security, increasing agricultural productivity and livelihoods, and so forth. In most cases, it will be sufficient for you to reference the policy, the priority(ies), and the way in which your project is aligned. For example:
This project is aligned with Palm Island’s Joint National Action Plan’s priority #4, which calls for enhanced food security, and priority #7, which aims to improve livelihoods and incomes of small farmers, including women, because the project’s objectives include strengthening the resilience of taro production systems to the impacts of climate change.
In addition, as noted in Chapter 2, national strategy and policy documents tend to have a great deal of information about climate change. Most of these documents also contain references to other national documents that you can incorporate into your proposal. For example, the RMI JNAP summarizes that country’s National Climate Change Policy Framework.
Lastly, you may find it beneficial to conduct consultations with the agencies and authorities responsible for developing and overseeing implementation of these strategies and policies. Some application templates include questions about the stakeholder consultations that have been conducted to inform the project’s design, and so these kinds of consultations help to demonstrate that your team has worked to coordinate with other agencies, organizations, and projects.
Step 2: Identify linkages to your country’s international commitments and statements relating to climate change.
All Pacific Island Countries (PICs) have submitted reporting statements and commitments to the UNFCCC. These include National Communications, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), and, in some cases, National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA)2Note that only countries classified as Least Developed Countries (Tuvalu, Kiribati, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands) have NAPAs documents. Like the national policy statements, these documents often outline general priorities, although for some countries the NDCs only include mitigation priorities.
Where possible, your project proposal should reference these documents. For example, Kiribati’s Initial Nationally Determined Contribution describes 12 general strategies for implementation, including:
- Improving knowledge and information generation, management, and sharing
- Increasing water and food security with integrated and sector-specific approaches and promoting healthy and resilient ecosystems
- Strengthening health service delivery to address climate change impacts
- Delivering appropriate education, training, and awareness programs
As with national policies and strategies, it is a simple task to reference these policies once you know what they are. In addition to these UNFCCC documents, consider referencing regional agreements and declarations that include your country. One example is the Suva Declaration on Climate Change (2015).
Step 3: Identify linkages to sectoral plans and policies that are relevant to your project.
Your project proposal should also reference any sectoral policies and plans relevant to your project’s activities. These plans will vary from country to country, but there are some general commonalities. For example, most countries in the Pacific have some sort of agricultural strategy, a coastal management strategy, and a marine resources strategy.
In our example of the Palm Island Taro project, we would want to make sure that our project is aligned with and advances the priorities spelled out in the Palm Island Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy and Action Plan. In some cases, your project proposal might cover more than one sector, and you should make sure to reference all the relevant plans, strategies, and priorities.
Step 4: Identify linkages to cross-cutting plans and policies.
Some countries have plans that cover cross-cutting issues, the most common being gender. It will strengthen your proposal if you are able to demonstrate that your project in some way advances the goals of these plans. For example, the Solomon Islands National Gender Equality and Women’s Development Policy (2016–20) has several “priority outcomes” relevant to climate change adaptation activities, including:
- Gender-responsive government programs and services
- Improved economic status of women
- Equal participation of women and men at all levels of decision-making, governance, and leadership
Chapter 4 will provide guidance on how to incorporate these considerations into project design. At this point it is important to make sure that you reference the appropriate policies. Other cross-cutting issues to consider include persons with disabilities (PWD), disaster risk reduction/disaster risk management (if your country does not have a JNAP), and migration.
Step 5: Identify linkages to local/community plans and processes.
Although this is listed last, for small grants projects this is one of the most important considerations because it helps the funder understand that your project will be acceptable to the local community where it is being implemented and that the community is likely to continue/maintain the outputs of the project after the project is completed. This is a major consideration for project funders; projects that are not aligned with community priorities, norms, and needs are not likely to be effective, nor are their benefits likely to be sustained when the funding runs out. Therefore, it is important to identify not only local plans, but planning processes, and to ensure that the project is in alignment with these.
As noted above, it is always a good idea to conduct consultations with a representative group of local people (especially those who the project will benefit or affect) and to meaningfully incorporate their feedback into the project’s design. Consultations should be documented in your proposal, as they provide evidence to the funder that your project is locally rooted.
As noted above, it helps to think of your project as part of a broader strategy to improve lives and livelihoods in your community. In other words, your project is a piece of a larger puzzle that might include national, subnational, and community policies and activities as well as programs carried out by church organizations, community groups, non-government organizations, and perhaps even private-sector enterprises. It is important to ensure that your project is clearly linked to all of these policies and activities because no single project alone can address the impacts of climate change. Moreover, uncoordinated action on climate change can lead to redundant expenditures and wasted resources, policy confusion, and in some cases, even to increased vulnerability.
By describing how your proposed project links with all of the above-mentioned policies, strategies, and frameworks, you will demonstrate to your funder that you have thought about the bigger picture. You will also show that you have carefully identified a problem and need that is consistent with existing priorities. This will go a long way to improving the chances that your project will receive funding.