Embrace the Dark Side; How to Plan and Resource an Environmental Project
By Keith Tomkins, Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership Manager and Chartered Health and Safety Advisor, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, and Rose Revera, People and Wildlife Officer, The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales
We’ve all been there; you’ve just come up with a great idea for a project that you think could really help with the conservation of a species or management of a certain habitat, but you have no idea where to go from there. A good project, ecological knowledge and enthusiasm is a good start, but if you want to create a successful project and gain the funding you need to deliver it, you are going to have to embrace some of the darker arts of the sector.
First off, you need a catchy idea. There are hundreds of ideas for great projects out there, how can you make yours stand out? Is there a different angle you can present that makes yours more exciting than others? Do plenty of research to see if anything similar has been done before and find out what made them work (or fail!). The more you know about the subject, the more likely it is that you will make a success of a project.
Health and safety! It’s a term that’s usually associated with a groan of dismay, but it is absolutely essential and should be built into every project you work on. Risk assessments should be in place for all the sites you intend to work on and for all your activities. If you are unable to evidence health and safety competence, your project will fail.
The next thing to consider is your costs. How much money will you need to deliver the project, in terms of staff time, material costs and consumables such as printing? All of these costs need to be presented to a potential funder, and there is always more than you think when you start. Create a spreadsheet to help you determine what your costs are likely to be before you begin to look for funding. Also be aware that some funders may not fund certain aspects of a project, such as staff time.
You also need to know what your funders want. You know that you want a result, such as a wetland or a re-built drystone wall, but your funders may want to see other aspects, such as community engagement, health and wellbeing or species recording alongside your main aim. How could you build these requirements into your project? Could you upskill some volunteers whilst getting that drystone wall re-built? Recognising these additional benefits and building them into your project immediately makes it more attractive for funding purposes.
Consider your ambition. It takes nearly as much work to apply for £10,000 as it does £100,000, so could you go big and build your idea into a larger scale project with more benefits for wildlife? This may not always be appropriate, but it’s worth thinking about.
The last thing to do is to embrace and ignore your fear of failure! Be realistic, accept you might fail. You can be 100% sure you will fail if you don’t try. The ability to take a good idea and add the above elements is the dark art of Project Development. Some of these arts can be learned, particularly health and safety and budgeting, while others require a mixture of competitiveness and experience.
Is there ‘certification’ for this ‘dark art’?
There are training courses out there which can help you with Project Management, risk assessment and applying for funding, keep your eye on CJS!
The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales runs a full programme of ecological training courses every year. To find out more, visit http://www.welshwildlife.org/things-to-do/training-courses/
First published in CJS Focus on Countryside Skills (traditional & modern) with Field Studies Council (FSC) on 23 May 2016