Chris Sissons

Community Project Development Support

Quote of the month

September 2013

I'm working on a replacement for this site. Follow my progress at Community Web Design. This is an experimental site, watch out for the launch of the finished site in the near future. 

Chris Sissons

Ask Chris

1 January 2013

  • Why do we evaluate projects?
  • Do we need to collect evidence?
  • How do we collect it?
  • For whom?
  • When?
  • What do we do with it?
  • Will pictures of the event suffice?
  • Who should be involved?
  • How long should it take?
  • Examples of doing evaluations
  • Examples of bad practice
  • Examples of good practice
  • What would be the needs of the funders?
  • How long do we keep it?
  • Will it just gather dust on the shelf?

Charlie, W Yorkshire

Go to Ask Chris for my answer.

Project Development

Emerging Poppy headGood management is central to the success of any project.  Projects can fail because they are dominated by one powerful person who cannot share decision making or else they are run on anarchic lines on the false premise that people spontaneously organise when given the opportunity.  In practice, this can be one and the same problem!  

Successful project management encourages participation, so the project benefits from everyone’s expertise and everyone involved grows in confidence, understanding and creativity.  It isn’t easy but some projects achieve it and all approach it differently.

What are my inspirations?

  1. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement in the 18th century.  He was a brilliant organiser.  He travelled Britain and found the new industrial poor wherever he went.  There were few ministers and so Wesley taught the poor how to organise as societies.  During the nineteenth century, many working class movements how to organise learned from the Methodist societies, most notably trade unions.
  2. One such movement was the retail co-operatives.  Through co-operation, working people developed many of the institutions we know today, eg department stores, wholesale and retail organisations and the infrastructure for manufacture and transport associated with them, building societies, insurance companies, some banks (like the Trustee Savings Banks) and so on.  Most of these institutions also included libraries and educational classes, eg the Workers Educational Association.  The reason 21st century capitalism is so helpless is these inspirational movements and the means to develop them have disappeared. 
  3. Saul Alinsky in the United States up to the early 1970s and following on from him, the Industrial Areas Foundation and Citizens’ Organising.  Sadly, these movements have not taken root in Britain but they are still profoundly stimulating.

We have to face it, these historic traditions are mostly lost to us but they can still be an inspiration. When we tap into their spirit, we can open up new possibilities and enhance our experience of working together in and for our communities.  Here’s how:

Analysis - Community Profiling
Emerging poppy head Tangled Ropes

Let’s face it research can be dull …

But it doesn’t have to be … 

Every neighbourhood is different and requires new approaches to ways of seeing.  Here are a few pointers to get you started.  I’d be delighted to help you plan your profiling. 

  1. Neighbourhoods often lack spaces where people can meet.  How do we enhance the possibility of chance encounter?  Where can people meet for a cup of tea and a bun?  Where are the public toilets?  Which of your community spaces accessible to all?
  2. Citizens’ Organising uses power analysis, asking 'who makes decisions about what happens in our community?'  One way to tackles this question is through understanding the local economy.  Where are the jobs local people go to and who employs them?  Are people mainly employed, self-employed or unemployed?  What opportunities are there to encourage and support local enterprise?  How can you be a social entrepreneur?
  3. Knowing a neighbourhood involves seeing what is there.  Faith traditions might speak of the spirituality of a place.  Contemplation of any real place might lead us to ask about its identity, what makes it unique, its history and the stories of its people, whose roots may be local or anywhere in the world. 
Planning - Technical Writing
Emerging poppy head Plans and drawing equipment

Projects sometimes get so far and then get stuck marshalling information and writing plans and strategies.  I can help you identify the research you need to do, think through the basics, eg mission statements, aims and objectives, policies and procedures and write them up for you.  I can help you turn data from research into funding strategies, funding applications, feasibility studies, business plans, etc.

  1. Funding strategies help identify the evidence you need to back up your funding applications.  I can help prepare the information you need to complete funding applications.
  2. Feasibility studies and business plans require investment of time and money.  I can help you draw up a brief for a consultant, support your  research and do the writing with you.  You decide what goes in your plan, I help you pull it together.
  3. Paperwork can be tedious and many projects run out of steam whilst everyone waits for it to be completed and for the funding to come through.  There are always activities that can be done here and now, which help people to engage and can gather more evidence of the need for your proposals and your capacity to meet them.  These are sometimes called quick wins.  I can help you identify them.  I do the writing whilst you do the exciting stuff!
Implementation - Project Support
Emerging poppy head Equipment Of Under Construction

You’re up and running and then discover all the things you didn’t anticipate! Most projects encounter unexpected problems. Sometimes they're simply vexing but at others threaten the foundations of your project. Furthermore, recriminations can often cause as much damage as the original problem. A project that monitors and evaluates its work from the start, is often in a better place to tackle problems early and effectively.

  1. Troubleshooting – I can help you clarify problems, understand them and work out how to address them.
  2. Monitoring – I can help you work out what you need to monitor and how to do it with minimal effort.
  3. Evaluation – I can help you identify who needs what information and help you prepare reports.