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Hajira Khan: Action planning

Hajira Khan: Action planning

Hajira Khan advises Queen’s Young Leaders on planning – from consultation, resources and team-building to making your project sustainable

Back in January 2015, in the early days of the Queen’s Young Leaders programme, Hajira Khan spoke to Leading Change about values.

Reflecting on her first big project, she said, “When I look back on my action plan – the one I had for the project with the British Council – I see that it could have been stronger had I known things that I’ve learnt from experience.”

So we went back to Hajira to find out exactly what she learnt and asked her to share it on Leading Change. Below are her tips on consultation, free resources, leading teams, planning for sustainability and monitoring and evaluation.

Consultation

Listen to your target audience instead of implementing something that you think is missing in their community. A very common mistake is that people implement projects based on what they are passionate about or have resources to execute, but do not really listen to the community and focus on issues that need real attention.

Use the cultural practices of the community that you are targeting

For example, in some rural areas of Pakistan all decisions are made by the village elders. Therefore, it is extremely important to meet with them and listen to what problems in the community are. This is also very helpful because you are including the community in the decision making process, which is extremely important to avoid pushback from them.

Free resources

You need to get on with implementing your project but funding may not come until later, so look at free resources. Sometimes you don’t even need money to start a project.

Online

How are you going to use the internet and technology to support your work in the community? And how are you going to use the internet, and all the free resources on the internet, to implement your project?

Ask for help on social media. Start small by asking family, friends, co-workers and others. And you can recruit volunteers online from sites like volunteermatch.org or the UN Volunteering Service's website, onlinevolunteering.org

Depending on your project, you can get a bunch of resources on your specific topic or issue.

For example, when I implemented my project on teaching English to children, I found a lot of free quizzes, exercises and other resources from various websites. I still use Youtube, TED, and others for videos to add to the lesson plans.

And when I was doing training sessions with young people on leadership development I read a lot of Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fortune, Business Insider, etc. I've found I get knowledge and ideas from them which are extremely helpful for creating lesson plans.

Read how Marianna Farag used the internet to implement Paint Jamaica

Offline

You can also partner up with local organisations and get, for example if you’re teaching, free books. Or perhaps, your friend can teach Maths if they have good Maths skills, instead of you hiring someone to do it?

When I implemented my project that taught English as a second language I reached out to the British Council as they promote English in Pakistan. They were really interested in the project and provided me with stationery, books, English workbooks, and more.

Getting the most from teams

Different people bring in different resources and skills, so it’s good to work with a team.

When building a team, try to find people who are passionate about the cause and who will go the extra mile to implement the project. Look at your team members and see what each one brings.

Communicate the vision

Team members may forget their value to the project and become demotivated, so clear communication of the vision is extremely important. Everyone in the team must have a clear vision of what they are doing and how they are contributing to the development of the community.

Success stories

Share success stories from the project and appreciate people on the team individually as well as collectively.

Everyone on the team needs to be reminded of their contribution to the team and the impact it has had on the stakeholders.

Feedback

It is extremely important that everyone on the team is reminded of their value to the project – including volunteers. They are changing the community with you.

But people on the team want to hear what they are doing well and what needs to be improved. Therefore, it is essential that you appreciate when they are doing a really good job and share with them where they can further improve their work.

Focus on ‘we’

A lot project implementers promote themselves because they took the initiative to start the project and are helping the community change. This is very demotivating for the team who are also involved in making that impact with you and may be working just as hard.

Planning for sustainability

Focus on sustainability from the very start. Ask “What am I going to do after six months or a year?”

Set long-term goals. Where do you see your project in three to five years? And what do you envision the work is going to look like then?

Break long-term goals into several shorter specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) goals.

Think about next steps. How are you going to achieve these short-term goals?

If your project is donor-funded think of ways to make it self-sustainable. For example, if you are involved in training and development, you can reach out to organisations to train their employees for a fee. This way you can have part of your business or project generating profit to meet the operational requirements, and part focusing on social impact.

Read how Mustard Seed Communities fund social work with social enterprise

Read how Open Barbers balance business and outreach, and plan ahead

Monitoring and evaluating

Monitor the impact your project is making. This should be systematic. The team-lead or the leader of the project should decide how often to monitor the progress of the project.

Similarly, evaluating data is extremely important so you can understand the impact your project is making.

Ask how many people you are affecting and in what way? I use Survey Monkey. You can ask your stakeholders to fill out the feedback survey to see what they think  about the project and how it is impacting them.

Another good resource is MailChimp. This is great for sending out newsletters or emails with updates to investors, volunteers or community etc.

And Google Drive – docs, forms, spreadsheet – allows you to keep all your data in one place and is a fantastic collaboration tool.