Cover Image
close this bookSustainable Development and Persons with Disabilities: The Process of Self-Empowerment (ADF, 1995, 117 p.)
close this folderSection II: Building economic self-reliance
close this folderChapter 6: Income generating project planning
View the documentThe importance of planning
View the documentThe experience of a clothing manufacturing project run by a PWD organisation
View the documentOther lessons to learn from other experiences
View the documentRecommendations of the entebbe workshop
View the documentWhat is involved in successful planning
View the documentWhat kind of information is needed for planning?
View the documentWhat do we do with all this information?
View the documentAction guidelines

The importance of planning

All development projects normally pass through a certain sequence.

Of course monitoring and evaluation may yield information that then may have to be fed back into the system in order to carry out the necessary modifications. Often, however, the process is interrupted, or aborted, or a certain stage in the project cycle may, for various reasons, be overlooked. Thus very often, after a project has been implemented, the project holders fail either to set up a monitoring mechanism to keep track on the progress of the project, or they fail to carry out an evaluation. We shall come back to these later. Here, we discuss the first stage in the journey of the project.

Whether it is a group or an individual project, the importance of careful planning before actually embarking on the project cannot be overemphasised. Most mistakes are made well before the first purchase is made for a project. And since experience, particularly from a project that has failed, is a better guide to drawing out lessons and guidelines, we shall start with one such project.

Sequences of Development Projects

The experience of a clothing manufacturing project run by a PWD organisation

The women's wing of a PWD organisation decided that it was not fair that women were always limited to undertaking the "conventional" handicraft and poultry kinds of projects. They decided to try something more adventurous. Thus in 1992, they set up a clothing manufacturing company to cater for a fashionable women's market in the region.

A location was selected primarily because of the country's easy foreign exchange regulations at the time. Apart from this justification, no other organisational or management considerations were taken into account. The need for research and feasibility studies only became apparent after the business was facing problems. A feasibility study to determine viability of the project was carried out, but it was almost eight months after the company had already started business. By that time the study had become irrelevant.

Furthermore, no proper market study was undertaken. It was simply assumed that since there was nobody in the country who was manufacturing African designs for women, there would be a ready market for these. In the event the local market proved too small, and the company had no marketing expertise to reach out to the rest of the region, nor indeed a knowledge of how to go about hiring professional marketing skills.

The manager had not received any formal or informal training in business management. Earlier, she had successfully run the organisation's women's programme, and it was assumed that she would learn "on the job." At the inception of the company, there was no budget from which the management could operate. The mother body simply allocated funds and made payments according to 11 requisitions" from the company. Since a financial chart was non-existent, the resultant ad hoc financial administration became chaotic, affecting cash flow, borrowing, and further investments. By 1994, the company was in a serious debt situation, and had to close down.

Lessons to learn from the above experience

1. The desire to get out of stereotypical women's income generating activities was well-founded, but mere enthusiasm was no substitute for careful planning.

2. The feasibility and market studies should have been undertaken well before deciding on the location and scale of the enterprise, as well as on the type, quality, quantity and design of the product to be manufactured.

3. The management should have been professionally appointed. Preferably, a disabled person with management skills should have been found. Alternatively, the manager appointed should have been sent for training. Failing in both these options, it would have been better to hire a professional manager from the open market, until a disabled person could be trained for the job.

4. A proper budget and finance plan should have been drawn up. A certain amount of donor funding was perhaps justified in the initial stages on the grounds of "affirmative action," but eventually the enterprise could justify its existence only on the basis of its performance in the face of competition in the open market.

5. Proper stock control, quality and output control, cash flow control, proper book-keeping, constant market evaluation, periodic changes in the design of the clothing in response to market demand, expanding onto the regional market all these were necessary prerequisites for the venture to succeed. The company was deficient in all these.

A Collective Bakery Project

One Story of Failure An organization wanted to help start small businesses for people with disabilities. They chose an area where there were many disabled people.








The previous page shows another hypothetical story of an unsuccessful business enterprise set up by a donor organization. It is taken from the series of eight publications brought out by the ILO called: "How to Start a Small Business."

These are the lessons the ILO study drew out of this story:

· We must be sure that the people we are assisting really want to start small business.

· We must be sure that they are prepared to work hard and to cooperate with others.

· It is very important that persons with disabilities should themselves choose who to work with and what to do. Some persons might prefer to start a business alone, others might prefer to work in a group.

· We should only assist, not set up a business for them.

· If possible, the persons who want to start a business should contribute money from their own savings, or some of the material. It is also advisable to give a loan rather than a donation. This will give them a special reason to make their business succeed. They will feel that success or failure depends on their own efforts.

· It is also important that everyone gets some basic knowledge in management.

· We must visit regularly to give advice.

Although, as is clear from the above, the lessons are meant for the donors, with a slight amendment of the language they could well be lessons for the PWDs themselves.

Other lessons to learn from other experiences

· In any project, the human relationships are often more important than the technical and managerial issues, such as, for example, those dealing with:

· the question of power, or
· the process of decision-making.

· One question that always comes up is the involvement of women in decision-making and sharing out of the profits. Often a project is begun by women (e.g. a water project for domestic use) and ends up being in control of men (who might want to use the water to irrigate their farm).

· At the community level, people tend to elect "prominent" leaders to the management (executive) committees - people who are rich or "politically influential," those who speak English, and those who "know." This is a process by which people dis-empower themselves.

· The disabled people (and this applies generally to all marginalised people) often disempower themselves through lack of self-confidence. Sometimes development "experts" undermine their self-confidence. People allow themselves to be spoon-fed, and let outsiders decide things for them.

· Often projects initiated by PWDs end up being controlled by service organisations or professionals, especially where complicated technical inputs and production processes are involved. People cease to regard such projects as "theirs," and refer to them as "donors' projects." They contribute labour to the project, and may even benefit from them, but they are not in control of them.

· Often human rights issues are separated from issues of development. "Business is business," people say, "you cannot mix politics with it." They forget, however, that development itself is a human right. PWDs based in rural areas should involve human rights activists to fight for the repossession of their lands, and to secure their title deeds, and they should also get help on issues of land development, housing, schooling, clinics, etc.

· Often the elite among the PWDs dominate the projects and overwhelm the more disadvantaged among them.

Recommendations of the entebbe workshop

The Entebbe Workshop set up a working group on "Project Planning." Its task was to summarise and draw lessons from the groups that had presented their experiences and the subsequent discussion. It made the following recommendations on project planning:

The workshop recognised that the success of integrated sustainable projects depends on the time, effort and expertise put in the initial planning process of the project. Thorough mobilisation of both local and outside resources, analysis, implementation and streamlined evaluation process were identified as essential components of project planning. It was further proposed that:

· Planning should be integrated, participatory and should involve the beneficiaries and funding partners in collaboration with the community.

· The beneficiaries who are the ultimate owners of the project should be facilitated to understand and articulate implementation effectively.

· Professionals who work with the beneficiaries should ensure that the planned objectives are achievable. In most cases, local expertise should be utilised to build the organisational capacity. The original ideas about the project should come from the beneficiaries.

· The plans should have projected implementation guidelines that are time scheduled with tasks to be determined by the various abilities of PWDs.

· Plans should reflect the achievable goals and the project that will be realised. What the project will realise in terms of revenue; how, whom, and when members will share the benefits; what percentage will be ploughed back into the project. The plan should incorporate an ownership system that recognizes equal opportunities for its members.

· It was resolved and recommended that partners must be transparent and accountable to their members and funders as well as involving members during the identification, designing, planning, implementation and evaluation of their projects. Decision making in groups and PWD organisations should be democratized.

· Special interests were also emphasised. This included women with disabilities (WWDs) and children. If PWDs were deprived of opportunities, WWDs were more deprived and disadvantaged. The need to conduct sensitivity programmes for different members of the society was recommended.

This would enable WWDs and children with disabilities to fully integrate into the mainstream.

The need to involve men in sensitisation programmes was emphasised. Affirmative action and supportive laws were also recommended. Furthermore, the United Nations System (including the ILO) should give more consideration to supporting disabled women's initiatives in their programmes.

· It was finally recommended that organisations of disabled persons should encourage the participation of disabled women by ensuring that there is at least 50 percent representation of disabled women in decision making, designing, planning, implementation and evaluation Of programmes of disabled persons.

An owner or manager of an enterprise does not need to know everything about an enterprise economic, financial, technical, etc. etc. But (s)he does need to know enough about ALL aspects in order to understand the reports or analysis done by "experts". (S)he should also know where to hire such "expertise" and how to evaluate the competence of various kinds of experts that are available (for there are all kinds) in such a way that they are just right for the enterprise.

What is involved in successful planning

This depends on the kind of project one is embarking upon. Naturally, a large enterprise like the clothing factory discussed above requires a very different level of planning than a small one like a bakery. One cannot generalise.

Secondly, it is important not to present "planning" as some special activity that only "experts" can do. If it were presented in this light then PWDs (like other marginalised people) would forever be disempowered. They would never feel confident enough to embark on a project without having experts rule their lives. For sure, there are aspects of planning that require a certain amount of professional "expertise," especially for large projects.

The carrying out of a proper feasibility or market study is an example. Another is a technical evaluation of equipment before actually purchasing it. However, the important thing is not to be intimidated by the "experts."

Planning is not something that experts do. The experts may have knowledge about certain aspects of the enterprise (such as the technical, the financial or the marketing aspect), but they do not know all. For example, they would not know the human dimension of the enterprise. And this, when you are dealing with a group of disabled people or a situation that demands a certain degree of human sensitiveness, is an extremely important dimension. "Experts," especially those who deal with the financial and technical matters (as against those who deal with "labour" issues), are often insensitive to the human aspect. PLANNING IS NOT A SCIENCE. It has to deal with the human aspect just as much as with the technical.

So "experts" should not plan alone. It is only the owner/manager of the enterprise who has finally to put all things together after the "experts" have carried out their analysis and presented their reports. At the end of the day, if things go wrong, you as owner or manager are responsible, not the "experts."

What kind of information is needed for planning?

Planning is all about research and information. Planning is not implementation; that comes later. Thus, for example:

· Planning is not about acquiring land for farming. It is about information on how to secure land, how title deeds are made, how much land is needed and for what purpose.

· It is not yet about acquiring machinery. It is about information on what kind of machines are needed, where to secure them, what are prices, are they available locally or must they be imported, and if the latter, what is the import duty that might have to be paid, and so on?

· It is not yet about hiring people. It is information about what kinds of people need to be hired, how many skilled and how many unskilled, what kind of skills and at what levels, what their job descriptions are likely to look like, how much wages/salaries need to be paid to them, would they work in one shift, two, or in multi-shifts, etc.?

· It is not yet about raising money. It is information about what kinds of money are needed (loan capital or equity?), what are the likely sources of funds, at what rates of interest and periods of repayment, etc.?

Planning is about information and research. It is knowing where to get information, how to understand and analyse that information. It is about putting all the necessary information together so that various possible options are examined and assessed. It is about deciding what options are the most economical and desirable.

As earlier indicated, the planning that is needed will depend on the type of enterprise embarked upon. And so there is no general rule that applies to all cases. PLANNING IS A CONCRETE EXERCISE. Nonetheless, there are aspects that can be identified, as a kind of "check list" that owners and managers of enterprises need to go through in order to enable them to plan efficiently. These can be classified into three broad categories.

There is a fourth dimension, the regional or global one. This is for those who really want to venture into the regional or the global market. And, if they have the Will and the competence, why shouldn't they?

Types of Enterprise

General information about the state of the local and national economy

General information about the particular product or service

Specific information about the enterprise selected

Here, however, we shall limit ourselves to more modest efforts that confine themselves to the national markets. One must add, nonetheless, that in a globalised economy, national markets are also deeply affected by what happens globally. For example, if you decide to go into crop production (coffee, tobacco, etc.), your pricing and production policies may well be affected by what happens globally with respect to these crops. And so a certain amount of global (and regional) knowledge may be essential.

The Entebbe Workshop dealt with the question of the type of information that is needed for project planning. It came up with the following:

Types of information needed:

· Technical information leading to skill building
· Availability of resources e.g land, labour, capital and equipment
· Legal information
· Statistical data
· Demographic data used in planning for the provision of social services
· Marketing information
· Information about other organizations doing similar projects
· Market demand
· Socio-cultural information
· Information from local people
· Information on members concerned, and suitability of type of disability among the implementors
· Information about the activities of the group and about budgeting

This is a summary list of information that the participants identified as important or relevant for planning purposes. It shows the diverse nature of the information that is required. They were also asked to identify the sources from which information might be obtained, and they came up with the following:

Sources of information

· Business records, market survey
· Research institutions
· Community, (NGOs) and government departments
· Universities
· Development Officers
· Publications
· From organizations dealing with PWDs
· Persons caring for disabled people

Once again, the diversity of the sources of information is underlined. What is remarkable is that a lot of information is "public," in other words, it is there in the libraries, government departments, publications and in various archives. It is there for free. And yet, equally remarkably, few people bother to find these sources. They would prefer, rather, to employ a "consultant" who does the research and charges exorbitant fees. Whilst this may be necessary in some cases, it is not necessary for most projects. PWDs with more modest projects can carry out their own research.

What do we do with all this information?

We use it to do the three things necessary for planning that we identified at the beginning of the chapter, namely:

a) Project Identification
b) Project Feasibility
c) Project Designing and Formulation

For project identification we need a market survey. However, let us not get too scared by the phrase "market survey." For modest projects that do not need a great amount of capital outlay, we can carry out this study ourselves. For example, if there are too many bakeries around, or if the local village bakery is daily supplied with bread from a large town nearby, then clearly it is risky to get into it. For bigger projects, a proper market survey would be necessary.

Bamba Ndiaye, ILO Zimbabwe and Godfrey Dembe of the Karusandara project in Uganda role-playing a donor/applicant planning session. (Photo by Marla Feldman)

Next is: project feasibility. It is another big scare word, but it simply means: is the objective of the project we have identified "achievable" or not? Is it practical? Is it viable? Shall we risk going into it? Can we sustain it, and not get bankrupt? We obviously need to have all this information before venturing into it. For a proper feasibility, we need not only a market report, but also, additionally, a whole lot of other information, such as:

· First and foremost, the suitability of the project to the PWDs
· The availability of land, and its cost
· The availability of capital, and its cost
· Kinds of skills needed, their cost and availability
· Need for unskilled labour, labour regulations and the availability of labour
· The kinds of machinery needed, their cost and availability of maintenance and service
· Transport requirements
· Buildings (office, factory, storage, etc.) requirements, and accessibility of PWDs to them
· Water, electricity and telecommunications
· And so on, and so on.

Clearly, we cannot make a comprehensive list here. Planning, we need to repeat, is a concrete exercise, not theoretical, not abstract, not speculative. Each project must be treated in its own terms. If it is a big project, an "expert" might be hired to carry out a cost-benefit analysis. Another big word. It only means, (s)he will carry out an exercise that will show if the benefits (financial and social) that flow from the project are worth the proposed capital and recurrent expenditure. (S)he may additionally carry out a financial cashflow analysis to try to show how the income and expenditure on a monthly basis will effect the cash situation of the enterprise, since sometimes an acute shortage of cash at some critical period could put the enterprise in a "cash flow crisis," thus risking its survival.

Finally, we come to project design and formulation. Once the market study is done, and the feasibility is assured, we must now write up the project design.

The market and feasibility studies sometimes come up with several options, several possibilities. For example, a market study could say: "You could make exclusively women's dresses, but if you add on house soft furnishings as well, such as curtains and bedsheets, your prospects for success will improve." And a feasibility study could say: "With more machinery, you Will cut down on your unit cost and be competitive; on the other hand, the initial outlay on capital would be high, so you could, initially, go for more labour-intensive methods."

So, we as the project holders must make our choices. The experts are there only to advise. They don't take risks. We have to do that. And, therefore, after studying the various bits of information (including, where necessary, market and feasibility studies), we have to make choices and design the best option that is within our means and capability.

We must now draw some practical guidelines.

Action guidelines

A. For Persons with Disability

· Planning, we must repeat, is a necessary first step to any project. This cannot be overemphasised.

· It is not such a difficult exercise as it appears. Sometimes, scared with the prospect of planning, some people rush into a project hoping to solve problems as they appear. That is very dangerous. We must never rush into projects - even if we are tempted with donor funding.

· PWDs may consult "experts" if necessary. But they must not let experts run their lives, make decisions for them.

· PWDs must first carry out a proper "market study' of the product or service they want to make or market. Make a list of all the necessary information they would need, and then systematically carry out research to find answers to those questions. Again, they may use an "expert" if really necessary.

· A lot of information is "public". It is easily accessible, especially in big towns and cities. In villages, information can be obtained by asking questions around to the likely users of the product or service the PWDs hope to market.

· If they are satisfied there is a market, the next step is to carry out a feasibility, practicality study of the project. Again, they must make a list of all the items that should go into production and/or sale of the product or service and do research on them. They may seek outside help if necessary.

· They must decide on their options. Is it going to be a large project or small one? Is it going to be labour-intensive or capital-intensive? What are the costs involved, and what kind of finances would be needed? etc. etc.

· If a work place or a building is necessary, is it disability-friendly, both geographically and architecturally?

· Finally, how are the PWDs going to benefit in terms of service, employment and dividends?

B. For IGOs and NGOs working with PWDs

· Donors are sometimes responsible for forcing decisions. They need to spend the money before the financial year is out. That is highly irresponsible.

· They must insist on a market and a feasibility study before giving out money. If necessary, they must finance such studies before the project is launched.

· Planning, however, must be participatory. The donors, or the experts they hire, must not make decisions for the PWDs.

· It is better to give loans for the projects rather than outright grants.

· Similarly, it is better to provide facilities for training the project holders rather than "technical assistance."

· Don't abandon the projects once they are financed; keep monitoring their progress.

Some Areas for Further Discussion

Why is planning a "concrete" exercise? Why not make planning rules that apply to all situations?

Planning for an individual project would obviously be different from planning for a co-operative. In what ways?

In what kinds of situations would there be a need to seek the help of "professionals" or "experts"?