The Principled Manager: Participatory

Projects and Programs in the development and humanitarian sectors

To complement the processes and tools provided within their pages, Project DPro and Program DPro include a set of five essential Principles for the management of projects and programs in development:

  • Well Governed
  • Participatory
  • Comprehensive
  • Integrated
  • Adaptive

Here, we take a deeper look at the first of those Principles: Participatory. To find out more, consult pages 170-173 of the Project DPro Guide and pages 127-135 of the Program DPro Guide.


Participatory project management sets a foundation for:

  • Managing Expectations
  • Comprehensive Project Identification, Definition, and Planning
  • Clear Communication
  • Project Sustainability
  • Engagement of Stakeholders

Participatory is considered by many to be non-negotiable in the development sector. Projects and programs must often be inclusive of an array of stakeholders incorporating their views, opinions and needs throughout the phases of Project DPro.  

Participatory and Covid-19

Covid-19 has had a drastic impact on the way in which people communicate with each other. In terms of people’s participation in development, NGOs and development agencies are faced with challenges relating to the fostering of “Good” participation.

Especially in the early stages of a project, when diagnosing development contexts and performing needs analysis, “normal” participatory practices would often involve the convening of large meetings and workshops.

The value of such participatory activities not only relates the collaborative construction of knowledge, but also provides a form of social cohesion between the project and its stakeholders.

Conclusion: the greatest challenge?

More than any other Project and Program DPro Principles, and perhaps more than any other aspect of Project and Program Management, Participatory has been affected greatly by Covid-19.

NGOs and Project Managers are faced with finding ways of overcoming the obstacles created by Covid-19, and are endeavoring to answer a number of key questions:

  • How can the benefits of participation be maintained during online activities?
  • How do NGOs overcome the fact that technology accentuates disparities in development settings?
  • Which factors affect decisions over whether to go ahead with face-to-face activities?   

Stakeholder engagement in the Post-Covid-19 era

How will your approach to stakeholder engagement and communication change in 2020?

As we attempt to exit the current health crisis which has consumed our energies and attention during the first half of the year, we will have to adapt many of out normal practices to accommodate the new “normality” of a post-Covid-19 world.

An obvious area to begin thinking about changes to our PM practices is stakeholder engagement and communication. Whereas, previously, face-to-face meetings and communication were almost universally accepted as the preferable way in which to conduct business, experiences during lockdown have given people a taste of the alternatives on offer, as well as the benefits and pitfalls they bring.

The Stakeholder Communications Plan is one of the many tools included within the PMD Pro/Project DPro Guide. The plan’s objective is to clarify the “What, Why, Who, How, and When” of communications. Since the plan is completed before these communications actually take place, it offers us the opportunity to consider how communications in our upcoming project may be changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The elements that may differ will be the “how” and the “when”, as the other three should remain constant and unaffected by external issues such as Covid-19. In consideration of “How”, Project Managers must now analyze whether face-to-face meetings are really essential: can they be replaced by online meetings, emails or phone calls? Ultimately, you must judge whether there are any real benefits in terms of clarity of message, team building etc., to justify your face-to-face meetings. If not, then, in the immediate future at least, alternatives may be just as practical but safer methods of communication.

The communication method chosen is likely to have some impact upon the timing of communications. We sometimes don’t appreciate that, when we share the same physical workspace, we engage in many informal “mini-meetings” during the working day. This may be just to pop your head around someone’s office door to clarify a point. It can be easy to underestimate just how meticulous alternative communications need to be to fill this void. Filling the void could mean the need to increase the frequency of communications as well as the time spent on, for example, writing emails.

What other issues arise from a reduction in the time spent in face-to-face conversation with your colleagues and partners? Think about how you will adapt to this challenge. You can read more about stakeholder engagement and communication on pages 86 and 122-4 of the Project DPro Guide.     

Project Risk Identification and Management Post-Covid-19

This is the third in a series of articles looking at the effects of Covid-19 on project management in the development and humanitarian sectors. For the second article in the series, visit:

Schedule and Time Management Post-Covid-19

Identification and management of risk is intrinsic and non-negotiable in project management, and certainly one area that will be irrevocably changed by the current health crisis. I believe we will change not the way in which risk is identified and assessed, but rather our relationship with risk.

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Schedule and Time Management Post-Covid-19

This is the second in a series of articles looking at the effects of Covid-19 on project management in the development and humanitarian sectors. For the first article in the series, take a look at the DPro+ Blog.

How will our experience of coronavirus affect our approach to managing the time element of projects in future?

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A Post-COVID-19 World and Alternative Development with Project DPro

When we finally emerge from the current health crisis, it will be to a World indelibly marked by the events of 2020. 

The extent of human and economic loss exacted by coronavirus is not yet clear. What we do know is that life will go on and dedicated professionals will continue their work in the humanitarian sectors. But even before current events unfolded, calls for radical change were becoming ever louder as irreversible climate change becomes more imminent. 

I expect this trend to be magnified by the Covid-19 crisis. More people will consider alternatives to mainstream development that focus on culture and wellbeing rather than production based on economic growth. Concepts such as Buen Vivir, Ubuntu, and Degrowth may well become more popular.       

What does this mean for the Project DPro practitioner? Alternative development projects are people-centered and participatory, working on social and cultural issues at grassroots level. Inevitably then, for alternative development projects local knowledge and needs analysis will be more in-depth and complex.  

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