Thematic Short Course on Project Cycle Management


From doing things right to doing the right thing

Sandrine Delattre, coordinator of our one-week course on Humanitarian Project Cycle Management (PCM), explains the logic behind PCM and how  it is essential to design projects in a logical, participative and comprehensive manner to ultimately bring meaningful change to those affected by the projects.

Originally developed in 1971 by the US Agency for International Development, the logical framework tool – also known as “logframe” – was soon widely disseminated by donors. Humanitarian project managers at field or HQ levels were suddenly urged to “send their logframes in order to get funds“. The idea behind that was to improve project proposals. And, let’s not fool ourselves, it was true that there was a need to do better in that area!

But with many (many!) adaptations made to the tool in terms of terminology or format and very few clear explanations on how and why to use it, project managers were often lost. Logframes were rapidly considered as an extra burden, “just another donor requirement”. In short, due to this lack of clarity, the opportunity to improve the quality of projects design thanks to the introduction of the logframe was missed, to say the least.

In the early ‘90s, I was one of those lost project managers in the field. I was “filling in the logframe boxes” because I had to. Needless to say, my project proposals were far from perfect. Eventually, and since I was proudly carrying around business cards indicating the function of “Project coordinator”, I decided it was time for me to learn what I was supposed to do and started to seriously study Project Cycle Management (PCM). Best-Decision-Ever…I saw the light!

Thanks to my training courses, I was finally able to understand the whole logic behind PCM. Among other things, PCM taught me:

–        How to analyse problems, using the problem tree to, for instance, enable populations to explain their situation;

–        How a good mapping of problems helps you decide whether you can/should intervene or not in a given situation;

–        How a problem tree helps define the right logic of intervention of a project;

–        How a good project design, with relevant indicators and assumptions, corresponds to 80 per cent of the design of monitoring and evaluation systems.

But where is the logical framework in all this? This was probably the best learning: I was finally able to design projects in a logical, participative and comprehensive manner by proceeding in a step-by-step approach as indicated in the logframe. I was no longer “filling in boxes”, but using a logframe as a driver for my process.

With my course at CERAH, I want to provide the same experience I was offered back then. I want to re-position any project design tools for what they are: “just” tools that primarily support project managers and project teams in their analytical work.

The focus of my course is not merely about logical framework, but about the entire logic behind designing projects and more globally behind the entire project cycle. In class, we don’t lose time on terminologies – should we say outcome? Or specific objective? Or general objective? Rather, my aim is that together we bring greater clarity and meaning to the concept and process.

But ultimately, my course is not only about the process. The concept of Result-Based Management (RBM) is at the centre of the discussions to enable us not only to “do things right” but to make sure we “do the right thing” and bring meaningful change to people. Because, at the end of any project cycle, this is what a project coordinator is accountable for.