Development Cooperation Handbook/Designing and Executing Projects

Designing and Executing Projects

In this section we will see the practical side of project management and we will share the typical steps and tools of project management

Designing & Executing Projects

A project is a temporary process undertaken in order to achieve a specific result.
Projects are "temporary" because once project results are achieved, the effort terminates. So projects are different from repetitive processes that are meant to continue indefinitely. Building a school in a village is a project (that terminates once the school is built); but educating village children is a constantly renewed process (expected to continue generation after generation).

Etymologically, the word "project" derives from Latin "proiectum" (from pro- "forward" + iacere "to throw") literally meaning "something thrown forth"; the use of the word "project" as a "scheme, proposal, mental plan" is present in English from circa 1600. The use of the word "project" for a time-bound specific effort is motivated by the fact that an action, in order to achieve intended results and produce expected outcomes, should first be planned adequately and then implemented in line with the plans. Working "by projects" is the management style where the work flow is organized for the achievement of well defined objectives.

In case of development cooperation activities, where there are a number of actors co-operating in a non-hierarchical structure, such an element of "planning" and of "working along the plans" is an essential prerequisite for success. So, development cooperation actions are all conceived as "projects".


The maintenance of the status quo is never the purpose of development cooperation that generally takes place where there is poverty, and it is meant to generate a "change" in the vicious circle of ignorance and exclusion. So "change" is a key term for development projects and the identification of what needs to be changed is the same as the identification of the expected outcomes of the project.
However, this change should be harmonious to the culture of local populations and cannot be superimposed by others. A characteristic of development cooperation actions is that they are "beneficiary based", i.e. designed and managed to serve the needs of the target population (and not the needs of donors or employer organizations). This means that what justifies an action is not its immediate results (i.e. the project deliverables) but the utilization of such deliverables to empower the beneficiaries to solve their problems and remove the factors generating poverty and injustice (i.e. the expected “outcome-s" of the project). The key to success in development cooperation activities is the participatory process that is meant to manage projects so that its outcomes primarily serve the interest of the beneficiaries and not of the organizations that work or allocate funds (i.e. the "donors").

Projects and programmes

Projects are always conceived within wider programmes, i.e. a broad framework of scopes, goals, and work methodologies. In development cooperation, it is within programmes that the development needs of beneficiaries is identified and overall objectives to be achieved, in order to respond to those needs, are defined. Programs therefore provide a framework wherein different projects, sharing the same overall objectives, can be implemented in a coordinated manner.

Subsections of this chapter

Typical development phases of a project

Introduction to Project Management
Project Phases

The 9 Topic Areas Of Project Management Knowledge

  1. Integration
  2. Scope
  3. Time
  4. Cost
  5. Quality
  6. Human Resources
  7. Communication
  8. Risk
  9. Procurement



  Project Planning Tools
  Project Execution Tools

See also


  Issue 8 ⇒ How to design and manage successful cooperation programmes?

  In other sections of this handbook

  on Wikipedia

  on other Wikibooks

Other references