All aid agencies have their own approaches to managing programmes and projects through their life cycle. In the 1990s the European Commission adopted Project Cycle Management as its core approach to the design and management of development cooperation projects.
Project Cycle Management Helpdesk
In the early 2000s, development cooperation policy evolved and the range of EC aid instruments expanded to include sector programmes and budget support. To support the effective design and management of its aid, the EC commissioned a series of contracts to provide training and methodological support to EC staff and to its aid partners – governments and non-state actors. Known initially as the Project Cycle Management Helpdesk then the Aid Delivery Methods (ADM) programme, in its various guises this contract has been the EC’s main tool for building capacity within the EC and among its partners on how to interpret and apply development cooperation policy.
When Itad first won the PCM Helpdesk contract in 1997, our approach was to develop a set of quality management tools for assessing and strengthening project design – specifically the quality of the project logframe and the financing proposal to which it was appended. We applied these tools ourselves through helpdesk support to individual task managers who support feedback on areas for improvement in their draft project proposals. Through the delivery of our extensive training programme we focused on how training participants could apply the tools themselves, thus marketing use of the tools more widely and building sustainable capacity for their application without helpdesk support.
Changing policy, changing approach
When development cooperation policy changed dramatically in the early 2000s to include sector programmes and budget support, our approach was to focus on raising awareness of the policy itself and how the new instruments were meant to operate. We wrote detailed guidelines of sector programmes, we updated guidance on the project approach, and we provided editorial support to the finalisation of budget support guidelines. Updated versions of these documents are still in use today and available on the Europa website. As EC staff and partners became familiar with the policy, so we switched our approach to methodological development, using facilitation, training and guidance notes to adapt general policy guidance to specific sectoral and country contexts.
Over a period of 12 years, Itad managed a Brussels-based team and a large roster of technical and sectoral experts to deliver training and support that was instrumental in the effective promotion and application of EC development cooperation policy globally. We developed a suite of tools, guidance notes and training modules and we trained many thousands of staff from within the EC, its partner governments and other recipients of EC development aid.