From Idea to Project - International Operational Agent

The 10+1 Steps from Idea to Project
Applied from:
“Ideasta projektiksi” (From Idea to Project) -presentation by Paula Rouhiainen, and from
“Millainen on hyvä (liikkuvuus)hakemus?” (What is a good mobility project application like?) -presentation
by Sari Huttunen; Centre for International Mobility, CIMO, Finland
The original presentations have been designed for the Leonardo da Vinci –programme. However, many
of the introduced issues apply to other European project contexts, as well.
1. The context of project work
When starting to plan a new project you should keep in mind also the “big picture”: your
organisation’s goals and visions for internationalisation (international policy and strategy), the
national education policy and, ultimately, the European Union’s objectives and
VET organisations’ strategies, guidelines, resources etc.
of objectives
National education policy
Funding programme’s objectives (e.g. Leonardo da Vinci)
European Union level objectives and recommendations for VET, Lisbon Treaty, etc.
2. Does the idea fit to the funding programme
When thinking of applying for project funding, think whether the project idea fits to the objectives
of the funding programme. For example, the basic requirements for Leonardo da Vinci
development/innovation projects are that the project idea:
serves vocational training purposes
promotes cooperation between work life and education
deals with development of training
brings about concrete results and products
The project should NOT
 promote only cooperation between VET institutes
 concentrate only on arranging training
 include “Let’s plan during the project what we’ll do” –type of thinking
development/innovation project is about TESTING AN IDEA
3. Right from the beginning...
…you should keep in mind the essential elements of the project:
Background & need
Added value
Target group
Results & impact
Partner group
Work plan
WHAT is the project’s idea?
WHY is the project done?
What NEW does the project bring?
WHOM is the project for?
What is PRODUCED, what is the BENEFIT?
How are things ELSEWHERE?
WHICH PARTNERS are involved? Why?
WHAT is done and HOW?
4. Background and need
Numerous project ideas are presented all the time. That is why it is crucial to justify why this
particular project is important! You should be able explain what kind of difference the project
makes compared to the current situation . So, be ready to present:
Which development needs is the project based on?
What is being transferred or developed (innovation, good practise, product…)
How have the needs been perceived (prove the need, show evidence)?
How does the project relate to own organisation’s activities?
How does the project relate to national development needs?
How does the project respond to other partner countries’ needs?
5. Added value
Any new project should bring something new with it, either an “innovation” or something new
built on the existing knowledge/practices. To ensure that your project brings added value, think:
What has been done before
How to utilise existing know-how
Which innovations and good practices are transferable/transferred
What new does this project bring
What is the situation like in other countries?
6. Target group
The project is targeted for a certain group. In addition to the principle target group there may be
other groups which benefit from the project. What is/are your project’s target group and potential
other beneficiaries?
field of activity or professional sector
students or people in work life
an educational field, a degree
students, teachers, trainers
What about different countries? Different kinds of actors?
7. Results and impact
Even though the actual project work has a certain life cycle, the outcomes are supposed to
carry continuity and influence beyond the project period. Thus, already when proposing a
project you should have a clear idea of:
E.g. Development / innovation project:
 What is the project aiming at, what will be the results?
 What are the end products like?
 Will there be different kinds of products for different target groups?
 How are products going to be utilised
o is the target group participating in the project and piloting the product?
o how are products going to be disseminated and up-taken?
o how are the products integrated into (educational) systems?
o how will the impact be improved?
Are there differences between the partner countries?
E.g. in exchange / mobility projects for personnel:
 How to secure the quality of exchange => developing professional expertise
 Testing new methods, developing contents, transferring good practices (forms, portals,
reports, seminars, web-tools…)
=> Are the right/most relevant facets involved?
8. Internationalisation
It is good to think about the motives for doing an international project: what added value (see
number 5) does internationalisation bring? Would it be possible/meaningful to do the project
nationally? After deciding to go for an international project, think of the following:
Is the idea “genuinely” European?
If not (if it is actually based on mainly national needs), how does the project respond to
other countries’ needs?
The needs vary in different countries; how do you focus/set limits to the project?
What is the “novelty value” in different countries?
How are the products “localised” and will there be language versions?
The expertise of partners? What kinds of contacts/networks do partners have? What about their
possibility to influence in e.g. taking up the product?
9. Partner group
When selecting partners it is important to have:
complementing expertise
different kinds of actors, diverse group
committed partners => partnership can not be based on “trust” only; make contracts!
a manageable group size (number of countries and partners)
Each partner has to have a clear and suitable role, as well as a feeling that the project benefits
the organisation.
10. Work plan & resources
A work plan includes a description of
what will be done in different project phases, how is the work (division) arranged
which partner organisation is the responsible one
which partner organisations and persons participate in different activities
other resources: ICT, travel, sub-contracting etc.
duration and timing of project phases
clear and measurable results
The work plan is
 based on the results and products
 linked with the budget
Resources do not only refer to funding; in project work the term very much relates to time, as
well. Seek assistance from more experienced colleagues who can give feedback on your plan.
11. Work plan + resources = budget
Budget (e.g. in a Leonardo da Vinci -project)
 budget is built on the basis of work packages and the related tasks => plan the
resources needed in each work package
 budget should take into account the role and resources of different partners
 expenses are justified with the work plan and with separate budget attachments
Common weaknesses in work plans
the work plan includes only the essential, but leaves black holes to different phases of
the project
an individual work package’s objectives are unclear; not divided into more accurate
tasks, no milestones
the general job division among the partners is primarily technical or completely missing
one partner has the main responsibility of almost all tasks
partners’ role and duties are not expressed on work package –level
the link between activities and budget is weak
there is no proper plan of the project’s management
What do experts who evaluate project applications look for? At least the following things are
The proposed project:
 has clear and realistic objectives
 has a realistic work plan
 carries novelty value (is to some extent innovative; does not repeat what’s already done)
 is realistically transferable
 is composed of a partner group which carries expertise and has a balanced job division
 includes a European dimension
 has a balanced relation between activities and budget
 looks for clear products and real impact
 has a justified valorisation plan: dissemination and uptake of products
Avoid the following:
 products and results do not respond to the described needs
 broader development trends (EU and national) are not taken into consideration
 the need is not genuine for all partners
 differences between countries have not been taken into account
 the project idea is forced to a funding programme into which it does not fit
Testing the basic idea => colleagues
Committing the management
Testing the basic idea => representative of funding organisation
Setting up a work group and working on the idea (international coordinator, colleagues,
financial manager) => tentative description
5. Partner search/identification (national, EU), securing the co-understanding
6. Suggestions for changes / development ideas
7. Participation to preparative trainings (if available)
8. Further working on the project application => meetings with work group, national and
international partners
9. Budget and work plan
10. Handing in the project application