Development Cooperation Handbook/Designing and Executing Projects/Guildelines/How can we plan a project so as to ensure that is sustainable?

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to: navigation, search

(see the definition of sustainable development)

Sustainability is the ability to be sustained. Whether the benefits and effects produced a project/programme continue after its termination. The extents to which the groups affected by the aid want to and can themselves take charge to continue accomplishing the project objectives. The action description by project applicant requires definition and implementation of a sustainability strategy[1].

Sustainability is often the most important criteria of evaluation and refers to the extent to which:

The positive impacts of the project at the purpose level are likely to continue after the project assistance is over;

  • The target groups/beneficiaries want - and can - take over the project activities and thus continue to accomplish the project objectives.

This criterion is very large and the relative importance of the different issues will depend on the nature of the project and its relation with the local context. Analysis of sustainability can focus on:

  • Stakeholders’ ownership of objectives (participation in their definition during the de-sign phase) and achievements (participation throughout the duration of the project);
  • Institutional sustainability: the extent to which the project is embedded in and respects the local organisations/institutional structures, the capacity of these structures to take over after the project end and the adequacy of the project’s budget for this purpose;
  • Financial sustainability: whether the services provided to the beneficiaries are likely to continue after the funding ends; whether enough funds were available to cover all costs and whether the costs are likely to continue after the funding ends.
  • Socio-cultural sustainability: whether the project takes into account the local perception of needs and respects the local status’ systems and beliefs; whether the changes produced by the project have been accepted by the beneficiaries and other stake-holders and how;
  • Technical sustainability: whether the technology and knowledge provided fit in with existing traditions, skills and knowledge; whether the beneficiaries are likely to be able to maintain the technology acquired without further assistance;
  • Possibility of replicating successful impacts for a possible extension of the project or of other similar interventions.

Sustainability is about fostering participation - with dialogue, cooperation and communication.

In planning the project it is very important to consider how the project will have an impact on the programme and eventually in a wider context. A good project plan will properly would have defined how the project results, obtained through external financial support) would be used by the social system in a manner that would no longer require external support.


The key element for achieving sustainaility is designing and managing the project cycle with a spirit of partnership with the other project stakeholders at all its level and phases so as to capitize on the chain of subsidiarity and avoid conflicts of interests. See Manage concerted efforts with Partners/Counterparts; Involving Stakeholders)


Good practise by DWHH

[1] Sustainability description as per the Application Form template of the EC NSA-LA Budget Line of 2009

Describe the main preconditions and assumptions during and after the implementation phase.

  • Provide a detailed risk analysis and possible contingency plans. This should include at least a list of risks associated for each action proposed accompanied by relevant corrective measures to mitigate such risks. A good risk analysis would include a range of risk types including physical, environmental, political, economic and social risks.
  • Explain how sustainability will be secured after completion of the action. This may include aspects of necessary measures and strategies built into the action, follow-up activities, ownership by target groups, etc. In so doing, please make a distinction between the following 3 dimensions of sustainability:
    • Financial sustainability (financing of follow-up activities, sources of revenue for covering all future operating and maintenance costs, etc.);
    • Institutional level (which structures would allow, and how, the results of the action to continue to be in place after the end of the action? Address issues about the local "ownership" of action outcomes);
    • Policy level where applicable (what structural impact will the action have - e.g. will it lead to improved legislation, codes of conduct, methods, etc.

Sustainability description as per the Application Form template of the EC NSA-LA Budget Line of 2012

  • Describe the expected impact of the action with quantified data where possible, at technical, economic, social, and policy levels (will it lead to improved legislation, codes of conduct, methods, etc.).
  • Describe a dissemination plan and the possibilities for replication and extension of the action outcomes (multiplier effects), clearly indicating any foreseen dissemination channel.
  • Provide a detailed risk analysis and contingency plan. This should include a list of risks associated for each proposed action, accompanied by relevant mitigation measures. A good risk analysis will include a range of risk types including physical, environmental, political, economic and social risks.
  • Describe the main preconditions and assumptions during and after the implementation phase.
  • Explain how sustainability will be secured after completion of the action. This may include aspects of necessary follow-up activities, built-in strategies, ownership, communication plan, etc. In so doing so, make a distinction between the following 4 dimensions of sustainability:

o Financial sustainability: financing of follow-up activities, sources of revenue for covering all future operating and maintenance costs, etc.;

o Institutional sustainability: including structures that would allow the results of the action to continue to be in place after the end of the action, capacity building, agreements and local "ownership" of action outcomes;

o Policy level sustainability (where applicable) including the structural impact of the action (improved legislation, consistency with existing framework/s, codes of conduct, methods, etc.).

o Environmental sustainability (what impact will the action have on the environment – have conditions put in place to avoid negative effects on natural resources on which the action depends and on the broader natural environment)




See also:

  • sustainability assessment
  • sustainable development