Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Writing proposals: make it easy on yourself I

Part One
I’m terribly excited about a proposal for Rio+20 that I wrote with my colleague Nina. “What a sad creature,” you say. “Who gets excited about proposal writing?” Well let me tell you, by the time Nina pressed ‘send’ at 00.20 this morning, I had experienced the complete A-Z of emotions. My brain was so busy; I didn’t want to go to bed.

12 easy steps to a powerful proposal
  1. Do the research
  2. Stick with what you know
  3. Collaborate
  4. Delegate 
  5. Know yourself
  6. Focus 
  7. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours
  8. Don’t starve
  9. Don’t be a martyr
  10. Relax
  11. Focus
  12. Tell each other what you enjoyed
What do you need to write a proposal the easy way?

Read the tender closely: Identify the assessment criteria. What must you cover in your proposal to get the attention of the assessors? Be sure to mirror the language and terms in the tender document in your proposal.

Write about what you know: From a long menu of topics we chose sustainable cities because that is the subject we know best. Decide what makes your organisation special, and put that into your proposal. Lots of organisations work on sustainable cities, so what is special about the LEAD approach?

Involve the most talented people you can: Know your strengths and your limitations. Build a team of people who love their subject and like to share what they know with others. We identified 3 outstanding LEAD Fellows in Brazil, South Africa and Canada who all work in the area of sustainable urban development. We arranged to meet each one on Skype, explained the purpose of the proposal, what we wanted them to do, and how we could all make it work. We sold the idea to them and because they are all visionary and passionate about their subject, each of them said ‘yes’.

Divide the tasks: Nina is the project manager and I am the learning designer. We quickly agreed who would write which parts of the proposal based on what we do well. We must have share the work equally because I remember we both finished what we had to do about the same time. You need to trust the other person to do what needs to be done to a good standard before the deadline.

Be your own manager: When I don’t want to do something, I am extremely good at finding ‘displacement activities’. My desk needs tidying. There are some plates in the sink that need washing. I need something very specific to eat before I start. Just say ‘No’ to all these little tasks that don’t matter and focus on the one that does.

To be continued