Social projects: 5 challenges for strategic management
Building a soccer field or a square in a neighborhood, promoting a writing and reading initiative in a school and setting up an environmental program are examples that can be transformed into social projects.
As with any social intervention, carrying out this type of action implies developing a certain approach and incorporating certain tools. In this article we tell you what to consider for a strategic management of social projects aimed at sustainable development.
What are social projects?
Social projects are those that arise to improve the living conditions of a group of individuals, society, and its environment as a consequence of a problematic situation that is in the focus of attention of the actors involved, other stakeholders and/or the State.
Unlike private, investment or business projects, which primarily pursue economic profit, social projects seek general welfare, i.e., to create social value.
What is a social value?
It is everything that improves, perfects and completes the condition of the human being in its broadest and most complex sense, seeking freedom, happiness, justice, love, peace, respect, cooperation, transparency, knowledge, responsibility and work.
Therefore, when we talk about social projects, we need to understand that they are inserted in processes of social transformation and imply a political intentionality, with consequences in the strengthening and quality of life of individuals and groups.
Now, if we approach this transformation following the principles of sustainable development, we will be able to bring a more comprehensive and holistic approach to the search for solutions.
What does it imply to think about social projects oriented to sustainable development?
It involves an approach that proposes to address social challenges and promote the well-being of people and communities, integrating three key dimensions: the social dimension, the economic dimension, and the environmental dimension. This approach is transversal to the entire process and guides the design, implementation, and evaluation of the project.
Let’s suppose that there is a genuine interest that mobilizes us to do something for others or for some cause, it could be from our work, professional, political militancy, or activism space, that we have the decision to undertake a social project, what tools do we need to carry it out? What does managing a project imply? And doing it in a strategic way?
Social project management
Strategic project management is the art of effectively planning, organizing and coordinating all the steps and resources needed to address and solve, in this case, social problems.
Strategic management goes beyond the simple execution of tasks; it involves making decisions based on responsibility and constant ethical reflection based on a deep understanding of social, cultural, political, and environmental dynamics. At the same time, it constantly adapts to achieve significant and transformative results for the benefit of the people and communities involved.
Learn about the five challenges to manage social projects oriented to sustainable development in a strategic way.
1) Understanding the context and defining the problem
Understanding the context requires a situated analysis, i.e., knowing the social, economic, cultural, and political reality of the community or environment in which the project will be developed.
Understanding the context also means understanding that communities are dynamic, that is, that they are constantly changing and, on the other hand, that they are not exempt from tensions and conflicts. Little knowledge of the context or preconceptions may result in a wrong proposal.
With this diagnosis we will be able to construct the problem to be worked on. The important thing is that when we think of an intervention in the territory, the problematization should not start from the solution, but should be oriented to identify and define the problem to be addressed.
A clear and precise definition of the problem lays a solid foundation for developing the strategies and actions of our social project.
2) Codesigning solutions
How do we make things effective and meaningful? How do projects become meaningful? If we want to manage sustainable projects where the community takes ownership of the solution, we need to design with the key actors of a project so that people are protagonists.
Real participation requires the involvement of the people targeted by the project to generate ideas, co-create solutions, and make joint decisions.
3) Building political, economic, and organizational viability.
The feasibility analysis is key at the beginning of the process, as it allows us to identify the points to be improved or, if there is no feasibility of any kind, to be able to build it.
In this analysis we will be able to identify the institutions, organizations, and resources available in the community, including potential allies, local partners and key actors that can contribute to the project.
Are there any conflicts and with which actors can we link up and generate alliances?
In turn, building economic viability involves analyzing whether the necessary resources are available to implement the actions.
And organizational viability asks whether there is the human structure, roles, knowledge and technologies necessary to carry out what we propose.
Social projects face the great challenge of learning to deal with social complexity.
4) Evaluating and learning
Why evaluate? What do we evaluate? Evaluation is also part of the process of any social project. Through different techniques for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting information, we can learn from the process, results, and impact over time; it allows us to adjust present action and improve future action.
It is also a tool that helps us to ensure accountability, transparency and continuous improvement.
5) Safeguarding sustainability
Finally, if we want social projects to generate a significant transformation, we have the responsibility to ensure that the sustainable development approach is not lost in the intervention proposals.
This means always bearing in mind the search for a balance between social, economic, and environmental impact. Safeguarding sustainability will empower the community or target group, strengthen local capacities and promote citizen participation so that access to opportunities and rights achieved through the project will last and grow.
You know the challenges involved in the strategic management of social projects.