Development Cooperation Handbook/Designing and Executing Projects/Project initiation stage

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Project initiation

According to the PMI terminology, project initiation is the second stage of the project life. If follows project origination and is followed by Detailed Planning or design stage.

Not all the organizations use this terminology and in many cases initiation is considered a part of origination or a part of detailed planning. It is not important how we name the steps, but it is important that the project follows gradually all the steps so that its logic is sound and that all the project components are considered. Successful projects begin with a detailed project definition that is understood and accepted by the stakeholders. This requires clear understanding of the project purpose environment and making sure that the organization possesses all necessary competences and resources to undertake the project. By putting everything down in writing and by discussing it with the stakeholders helps to generate a commitment among project doers, project beneficiaries and other project stakeholders.

We said before that in the origination stage we identified the problems, the objectives and the principal stakeholders. In the initiation stage we decide what are the products and services that the project will delivered to the beneficiaries so that they are enable to solve the problems identified and achieve the project objectives. And we decide who will be actors and what will be the relationship between actors, beneficiaries and other project stakeholders. While defining the scope of the project and decide if to go ahead with allocating resources to it it is very important to consider the role of all the stakeholders and forecast their requirements while utilizing project outputs as factors leading towards overall programme objectives.

This means to visualize properly how the project will have an Impact|impact on the programme and eventually in a wider context. A good project 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. (See How can we plan a project so as to ensure that is sustainable?)

In development cooperation project it is important to be constantly aware that external actors cannot superimpose solution from outside; solutions to community problems have to be adopted by the community themselves. What we can do from outside is to reinforce the capacity of these community to recognize and solve the problems. So the project will not directly achieve the objectives but will deliver resources to local communities so as to better enable them to find their own solutions to the problem. Once the project plan will be fixed, the direct responsibility of the project team will be the delivery of the project outputs; so if there is no logical coherence between the outputs and the objectives, the objectives will not be achieved even if the implementing team does a wonderful job. It is therefore vital to make sure that the project results really represent the resources needed by the other project stakeholders for achieving the objectives that they intend to achieve by themselves. If the project is well designed the activities that project teams carry out the produce outputs that will empower project beneficiaries to tackle the problems identified and produce changes in the factors generating these problems, thereby contributing to the achievement of the project objectives. It is therefore important to understand well what the beneficiaries think about their problems and their capacity to solve them.


Without active contribution of beneficiaries, project outputs will not be utilised to achieve project outcomes Without active contribution of communities, beneficiaries will not be able to utilise outcomes to achieve impact. In project initiation it is therefore always a good idea to carry out a needs assessment exercise that aims at understanding the needs and rights, challenges and obstacles to improving the lives and well being of the potential target group. If the project team has correctly has understood the needs and problems of the target beneficiaries, they will be able to utilize the outputs to empower beneficiaries, i.e. move from outputs to outcomes. And if the project beneficiaries have correctly understood the needs and problems of the communities, they will be able to empower communities, i.e. move from outcomes to impact.

The project scope statement[edit | edit source]

The deliverable that terminates the Project initiation stage (and opens the Detailed Planning or design stage is the project scope document. (see the Guideline How to write a scope statement).

The project scope statement (that can be called differently in different organizations)should include at least:

  • Project justification
  • Project expected outcomes
  • Project expected deliverables

See the /The Scope Statement Template

The scope document will not include a definition of the activities, i.e. the work needed in order to produce the project deliverables. They will be listed , detailed and budgeted in the Project plan, i.e. the deliverable of the Detailed Planning or design stage.

Tools for Project Initiation[edit | edit source]

Project Initiation Kick-off Meeting Agenda

Project Stakeholder Analysis Template

Scheme of the logical correspondence among identified problems, proposed solutions, expected outcomes and Outputs of a project

Project Snapshot

The Scope Statement Template

Guidelines:How to write a scope statement

Checklist for the Internal approval of the project

See also[edit | edit source]

  • on Wikipedia
Project management: Initiating
Project Initiation document

See templates:

  • What we have to do in order to find our role in a project
  • How to relate project objectives to programme objectives