Our Top 10 Takeaways from the Civil Society Boost Initiative Conference

RISE Life Management Services launched their Civil Society Boost Initiative on March 8, 2017, in a two-part event held at the Jamaica Conference Centre. The first part of the conference was dedicated to a ‘proper’ launch of the project, which is being funded by the European Union (EU), under the patronage of Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, head of the EU delegation to Jamaica, and Marlene Malahoo-Forte, Jamaica’s attorney general, as well as Lisa Hanna, member of Parliament.

According to RISE Life, the Civil Society Boost Initiative has the objective of “transforming the civil society organisation (CSO) landscape through 24 months of integrated actions” focusing specifically on women, children and youth, persons with disabilities, LGBTs, environment and climate change, vulnerable communities, and at-risk youth.

The second part of the event was a series of workshops during which special guest presenters educated attendees about project cycle management; advocacy and governance; measurement tools for project success; communications and public relations; funding diversification; and business structure and governance. Here are diGJamaica’s top 10 takeaways from these workshops, instructive for civil society organisations, entrepreneurs, project personnel and businesspersons.

1. Do a gap/needs assessment before planning a project.

This is essential for you to determine the accuracy of your assumptions about what direction the project should take, what its objectives and target audience should be. The gap assessment gives you factual data on what will be needed for your  project, or if it is even necessary at all.

2. Keep objectives SMART.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Agreed upon, Realistic and Timebound. These are the requirements for any objective you set in any aspect of project planning or implementation. You have to ensure that your information is not too general, not too grandiose, remains doable, gets general buy-in and consensus from all stakeholders, and is planned around a specific timeline.

3. Do a baseline assessment.

Your baseline assessment will determine what the situation is like before your planned action/intervention. So, if, for example, your project is targetting youth to educate them about risky sexual behaviours, your baseline assessment will tell you what these youth’s current sexual practices and beliefs are, helping you to document what the situation is like before your planned action or intervention. This is essential for monitoring and evaluation purposes. You need to know what the situation was like when you started in order to properly measure if there was an impact made, and what kind of impact. It enables accurate comparison and reporting back to stakeholders.

4. Beware the project and the project manager.

First, ensure that you have a good project. It must be properly planned in order to be properly executed. Next, ensure that you get a good project manager. You need a person with the skills and know-how to oversee the process and make it happen. A good project manger can make a good project great, but cannot make a bad project good, and a bad project manager can make a good project fail.

5. Keep proper records.

This couldn’t be emphasised enough. Don’t allow your documents to fall into disarray. Good record-keeping ascertains an ability to go back and fact check, to find documents required for legalities, and to provide historical context and updates for stakeholders. Good documentation is essential and necessary for your business’ success.

 6. Beware accountability and transparency.

Decision makers are accountable to the public as well as to the different stakeholders involved in the project. Ensure that you keep this mind and answer to the relevant people/organisations. Transparency basically guarantees the free flow of information. Processes, institutions and information must be directly accessible to those who need them, and there must be enough information for them to understand and monitor what is taking place.

7. Beware your performance.

A project manager is usually as good as his/her last project, so be careful to give the project your very best so that your good performance will speak volumes of good things on your behalf … way into your future.

8. Keep the big picture in mind.

Your job is just one small part of a larger vision. Ensure that you execute in a way that complements the overall vision at all times. There must be consistency in every arm of the project. Each part must be contributing and feeding into the bigger picture. Kelly Magnus said it this way: Focus on your bit, but understand the whole puzzle.

9. Choose the right fund-raising option.

Ask the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose?
  2. How much money/resources are needed?
  3. Is it sustainable?
  4. Is it the appropriate thing at the appropriate time for the appropriate person/organisation?
  5. Does it make use of current assets and/or organisatonal strengths?
  6. Are there risks involved?

10. Believe in your project’s success!

In all that you do, remember to be BRAVE, be PATIENT, be ORGANISED and BELIEVE! Your conviction is the fuel that will keep you going when things get challenging. Be flexible and agile in your responses as issues arise, but don’t lose belief in your project’s worth … especially if you’ve taken all of the previous nine steps into consideration.