You are to write a project concept note for an organisation of your choice. The purpose of a concept note is to convey the basic idea of a project: why it is needed; what it will be; in what ways it will contribute to an organisation’s goals; what other impacts there are expected to be; and an indication of its feasibility. With such information, and analysis, senior managers should then be able to make a decision as to whether to commission a full proposal or not, or whether the idea might need some reworking, and so on. Therefore, a concept note should include at least the following sections.
A Project Rationale
This is essentially a brief outline of what the organisation wants to do, how it is trying to do it, what “problem”, or shortcoming, exists currently in what it is doing, and how the project idea will address some, or all, of this problem or shortcoming. The rationale, therefore, consists of a set of statements concerned with:
The organisation’s present situation: its mission, goals/objectives, and strategies; and a description of how it is trying to achieve these with its current activities (through projects or other means).
Identifying what you believe to be a shortcoming in the organisation’s attempts to achieve its goals.
Describing what you think the organisation can do to “correct” this shortcoming (i.e., a short summary of the project idea).
Analysis of the Context
This provides some descriptive information about the external and internal situations of the organisation. The bulk of this section, however, is concerned with analysing those situations so that the project makes sense as an idea – both in terms of understanding the project concept itself, and in terms of it being an appropriate response to the organisation’s context (external and internal). The section, in essence, provides the evidence and argument for the approach you are about to outline in the description of the project to follow.
The Project Outline
This is where you explain the project concept in some detail. Your description needs to be sufficiently detailed so that others can understand the idea but it is not the same as a project proposal: that is, it should NOT include detailed costing, precise plans, methodologies, detailed design drawings, resource-requirements, etc. The kind of information that is useful here would be: project objectives and activities; estimated timeframe and suggested timetable; possible sources of funding, estimated costs, and/or potential income; potential partners and/or stakeholders; the role of the organisation in the project; expected outputs and/or outcomes (if the output is a new product then an impressionistic drawing of that product might be helpful).
The Case for Project Implementation
This brings together the ideas of the previous sections to show how the project would be of benefit to the organisation. It explains how the activities of the project align with the strategy of the organisation to provide a coherent response to the context that was analysed above.
A Feasibility Assessment
This is not a comprehensive feasibility study, it is more of a short appraisal that identifies various factors that could help or hinder project success. Examples of such factors are (this is not a complete list):
Risks – financial or otherwise
Gaps – such as skills the organisation does not possess; technologies that do not exist in serviceable form (i.e. they might only be prototypes, too expensive, untested, unreliable, and so on); important information missing or research that needs to be done
Choosing an Organisation and Project Idea
The organisation can be a for-profit or not-for-profit type, governmental or non-governmental, real or imaginary. There are advantages and disadvantages with each of these choices:
Choosing a real organisation means it might be easier to identify its mission, goals, objectives, strategies, and current (or past, or future) projects. For an imaginary organisation you would have to devise these yourself (although you could use an existing organisation as a starting point).
With not-for-profit organisations you might find that there is more information available in the public domain than is the case with for-profit organisations. However, conducting quantitative analysis is likely to be more difficult in the not-for-profit sector (the outcomes are not related to profits; rather, they are likely to be some qualitative improvements or benefits in communities).
The project could be either inward or outward-oriented. That is, it could be for internal implementation such as an investment for the benefit of the organisation: an improvement in one of its processes; an initial step into a new area of activity for the purpose of learning; a restructuring endeavour; etc. An outward-oriented project would result in something more easily “visible” to people outside the organisation: a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) undertaking; the development or launch of a new product or service (either for business or community-development purposes); a campaign of some kind, such as a marketing project or lobbying/protesting on a particular issue. And so on.
The nature of the project is entirely up to you. If you have any questions regarding your project idea then please get in touch and I will be happy to discuss these with you. Students can work individually or in groups of up to 3 (three) students.
The assessment of your project concept will not be focused on the project itself. That is, it is not about whether the project is actually feasible and/or worthwhile. The assessment will be concerned with how you present the idea and the analysis you provide in support of it: your use of analytical tools for the external and internal contexts of an organisation; your alignment of the project with the strategy of the organisation; your identification of relevant stakeholders, strategic issues, risks, benefits and disbenefits, capability requirements, etc.
All this must be achieved with a word-limit of 2000. This is not very much (about 4 sides of A4 if single-line spaced and consisting entirely of text: this document is over 1000 words, for example!) and so you will have to be concise in your writing. It will be helpful to make use of drawings, diagrams, and other graphical presentations of information as these usually only require brief explanation.
You should assume that you are writing this for a senior manager and so there is no need to explain the theory of the analytical tools you use, although there will be good reason to explain why you use a particular tool rather than another (this must be brief). The manager will be interested in having enough information and analysis with which to make a reasoned judgment: is this project worth pursuing? But the manager will not want to have to read for hours in order to make that judgment.
You should reference appropriately and your word count will NOT include the reference section.
You may consider project, programme or project portfolio.