Project planning

Planning usually happens in two stages. High level planning looks at the big picture before getting into more detail. It gives the project coordinator an idea of where to begin when meeting the needs, aims and objectives for the project. These criteria are good starting points for project planning.

Characteristics of youth

Before you begin planning a project, you must consider what the characteristics of the young people you are working with are. It is essential that you do this before developing your project so that you can plan to meet your young people's needs in a way that also helps you achieve the aim and objectives for your project.

Examples of characteristics of youth include:

characteristics of youth Wordle

"The rangatahi (young people) and children involved in our project were the ones attending our marae's holiday programme. They range in age from preschoolers to 16 years old. They are from all different iwi (as we are an urban marae) as well as tauiwi. They like being outside and playing games. Our young people like to be given responsibility, take on leadership roles and have input into projects, so we planned for each rangatahi to be responsible for a group of kids. They can also get quite competitive, so this suited their characteristics perfectly - they could compete against each other!"

Millie photo
Litia photo

"We made entry to the workshops open for 12-20 year olds. We held the workshops after school so the young people that were attending would be able to participate. The workshops were located in Manukau, South Auckland, which has a culturally diverse population.

We knew that the young people participating may not be able to come to more than one workshop, so we made sure that each activity could be completed in one workshop."

Responsibilities and accountabilities

It is unlikely that just one person is responsible for implementing every aspect of a project.

The project coordinator and/or youth organisation are usually accountable for the project as a whole. This means that they may be called on to explain their actions or what has happened if something goes wrong. The project coordinator and team members will be responsible for implementing different parts of a project. Some team members may be responsible for more than one area but the project coordinator will hold overall accountability.

It is important that a project plan clearly shows who is responsible and involved in implementing the project plan. This diagram shows how different members of a team could be accountable and responsible for parts of a project.

responsibilities diagram

When allocating tasks, check that everyone who is identified on the plan is available at all the times they are required. Don't just assume that because someone has said they're happy to help that they will be available exactly when you want them to! Also, make sure they understand exactly what they need to do. This could involve writing a set of instructions then meeting as a team (or with the person responsible) to check that everybody is clear about all the details of what is required. Again, don't assume that everybody has the same understanding of what is involved in implementing a task!

"As part of our community cleanup, we wanted to contact the Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust and see if we could get some paint to repaint the fences. We also needed rubbish bags to help with collecting rubbish. We also wanted to contact the media to put out an open invitation to everyone in the community to come and help us. My job was to see if someone would donate the paint."

Millie photo

Litia photo

"The idea was to celebrate young people by displaying their art around the community. We'd also contact schools and other organisations in the community to obtain young people's art for the display. My job was to make the calls and arrange for the art works to be collected and displayed, then safely returned to their owners."

Identifying things that may go wrong

It isn't practical to anticipate every possible thing that may go wrong during a project. However, it's important to think about and identify problems or issues you may face and plan some possible solutions before they arise. Begin by understanding the potential risks and their impact on your project.

Your project coordinator will have developed a risk management plan identifying potential risks that could affect your project. The plan will also include some possible solutions for addressing any issues that arise.

Litia photo

"We sat down as a team and brainstormed all the things that could possible go wrong with our project. We also spoke to different stakeholders and asked them about what potential problems they saw. Then, we asked for everybody's input about some possible solutions for these problems."

We'll look more closely at strategies for managing risks and safety later in this unit.

Dealing with unplanned events

Sometimes, despite the best of plans, things just go wrong. However, unplanned events don't always mean your project will be a disaster. Problems may present challenges for you and require you to do some quick thinking. Be assured that in your role as a youth leader assisting your project coordinator, you won't be left alone to deal with them!

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Some unplanned events may be quite straightforward to deal with. For example, you might be travelling with a group of young people to a pool for a swim event. However, a crash ahead of you on a busy road along the way means that traffic is delayed. In this instance, you could try and take a different route to get to the pool. It would also be a good idea to call the pool and/or the event organiser to let them know that your group will arrive a bit later than planned. You'd need to make sure you had a mobile phone available and the phone numbers of key stakeholders (for example, the event organisers and your youth work organisation) in case you need to call them.

"One of the unplanned events we needed to develop a procedure for was what would happen if it rained! We made a back-up plan to create a big mural indoors that we could hang outside later once we'd finished our marae cleanup."

Millie photo
Litia photo

"Once we had identified our risks and done everything we could to prevent them from happening, we came up with guidelines about what to do in the case of each one. For example, in the event of an art work being damaged, we decided to write a disclaimer so each young person knew and understood that there was a risk of their work being damaged and they could choose to not have it displayed. Also, we had a policy of reporting any damage to the young person as soon as it was noticed and we'd carry out repairs, if possible."

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Talk to your project coordinator about how much responsibility you as a youth leader have when dealing with unplanned events. Check:

  • what sorts of issues or unplanned events might realistically happen in this project?

  • what situations would be reasonable for you to deal with by yourself?

  • when should you call someone else for help?

  • who will be available if you need help? What's the best way of contacting them?

  • what are your organisation's policies about leaving a group unsupervised if you need to go somewhere to call for help?

Make notes about your conversation in any way you choose and add them to your portfolio.


Part of the planning process involves looking at how resources will be allocated. A resource is something that can be used to support or help your project. It could be an object, a piece of equipment, money, stationery or another product. It could also be a human resource or service, such as someone's time or expertise. For example, there may be a local artist in your community who is happy to teach young people how to sculpt masks out of clay or design the outline of a mural for young people to paint free of charge. The artist's time and expertise then becomes an extremely valuable resource for your project.

There are two key questions to ask when planning the use of resources:

  • What resources are needed to meet the project's objectives?

  • What resources do we have available?

You'll most likely have a project budget to work with (or no budget at all), which can make things challenging. However, you don't always need expensive resources for a project to be successful. Be creative and look at what you can do with what you've got.

Evaluating the project

Evaluation is a way of seeing whether a project's objectives have been met. It also provides the project team and other stakeholders valuable information about how well the systems and processes used to implement the project worked.

Although evaluating occurs at the end of a project (after it has been implemented), it is important to plan how it will happen during the planning stage of development. Refer to the Evaluating a project resource page for more information about project evaluation.

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Download and print a copy of the information on this page to refer to and discuss.

Project planning handout - Word document [762 KB]

Last modified: Tuesday, 24 September 2013, 9:03 AM