Exploring project options and specifying project objectives

Identify the best-suited project option by analysing existing practices, infrastructure, cultural and physical environment at the project site

Based on findings from the needs assessment and consultation with stakeholders, you can evaluate different project options vis-à-vis existing community practices, environmental and cultural settings and capacities. The decision on which option to go for should be taken jointly with the target group and other key stakeholders such as local government.

Purpose and link to IQC

The objective of this activity is to adapt the project to the local context. The analysis at the site helps to determine the feasibility of different project options. This needs to take into account the capacities, priorities and interest of the group or institution that is foreseen to take over and sustain the project in the long run. Without site visits at the outset of a project aspects that are critical for the success of a project may be overlooked (e.g. if for cultural reason the same toilets are not used by men and women).

How to

1.   Site Visit

Project options should be explored and thoroughly discussed with representatives of the target groups (see needs assessment). During a site visit, information on existing infrastructure and service provision is collected through direct observations and interviews with community members.

Descriptions of the existing infrastructure and service provision should be documented. Examples of information that should be gathered include (NETSSAF 2008):

  • Description of characteristics of the physical environment affecting the project: availability of materials, soil features, groundwater level, rainfall patterns, etc.
  • Inventory of existing services and technologies, practices, and their perceived benefits.
  • Description of the conditions of the existing systems as well as their operation and maintenance procedures.
  • It is crucial to include information about the reason why previous interventions failed.

2.   Analysing environmental and cultural factors affecting the project options

List all relevant project options as a basis to assess the features of the project environment that may affect the feasibility of different types of activities / interventions. For each option you collect information using e.g. the following guiding questions for:

1) environmental factors such as:

  • Which materials (that can be use for construction) are available in the area?
  • Are there any incompatibilities with the soil characteristics and my plans for construction?
  • What are the groundwater levels? How regularly is water available?

2) cultural factors / social acceptance for example linked to:

  • Local WASH practices posing health risks?
  • Local behaviour requiring specific project design?


Project option Environmental factors Cultural factors
A new borehole The water point is up-hill, so the water could be easily transported down-hill Use of the same water points by community members and cattle
New public sanitation facilities No water available for cleaning of facilities Men and women using different toilets

3.   Assessing project options

Each option or intervention is evaluated using a relevant set of criteria, including but not limited to the environmental and cultural factors at the project site. The table below provides an example (you can fill in the table by assigning a value to each option: “Good”, “Medium”, ”Bad”):


Criteria Rehabilitation of an existing school sanitation facility Training program for improvement of hygiene practices Construction of an improved sanitation facility and establishment of a cleaning committee
Cost good good bad
Effectiveness in addressing the needs of the target group (see needs assessment) good medium good
Geographical & site conditions favourable? good good medium
Impact on environment medium good medium
Social acceptance bad medium medium

4.   Conclusions for project planning and implementation process

Collect feedback on the conclusions from the target group. Involve them to provide input how the recommended project option could be implemented and how the selected project option could be further refined to yield more or better benefits. The following questions can be used to guide such a consultation:

  • How could the physical environment affect the success of the project?
  • How feasible and effective are the proposed project options?
  • How can you see the project outputs impacting on the daily life of target group? Can you imagine any negative impacts?
  • What would make the project even better for you?

Do not forget to let the community or target group know how you will take up their inputs in the further project planning and implementation.

Feedback from the target group Action to be undertaken
We do not want a new sanitation facility on that spot, it is the meeting point of the community Discuss with the community where there could be a better spot.

5.   Develop project document and objectives

Now is a good point to document the inputs, observations and your conclusions in a document that describes the project’s objectives and explains the project logic and motivation. Such a document does not need to be longer than two or three pages. It is a reference for the further planning and implementation as well as the monitoring and evaluation of the project and can be used to share basic project information with interested stakeholders.


References & Further Readings

Last updated 12 April 2018

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