PCDForum Column #41,    Release Date July 20, 1992

by John Roughan

In the Solomon Islands many people think getting project money is like magic. You write a proposal and, if fate favors you, the money falls from the sky. Actually, following three simple rules can greatly increase the prospect of a favorable funding response. More important, it will result in sound development practice.

RULE 1: Do Work First

This rule is the hardest for project holders to accept. "How can I do the work if I need money to start," they say? Notice I didn't say you should do the work for which you are requesting funds. Rather demonstrate your commitment and ability to do what can be done with your own resources--which, after all, is what development is about--before you seek outside money. Conducting meetings, making a paper plan, and then asking for someone else's money has only demonstrated the ability to write a project proposal.

In the 1960s a village man wouldn't know what you were talking about if you asked for a project proposal. Over the past three decades, however, project proposal writing has become a village growth industry. The paper with the proposal is treated almost as a magic talisman. This misses an important point.

Funding bodies most often back those groups that demonstrate they work together as a community, are in charge of their daily lives, and have strong, dedicated leadership. These are things outside money cannot buy. Without them no project will succeed. Groups with such qualities can often point to years of successful experience using their own resources to benefit the community--for example, creating a drainage system that keeps down mosquitoes, keeping their surroundings clean and healthy, and constructing strong houses. Experienced funders can be confident that money invested in such groups will be used well. Their requests for funds have a fighting chance of being heard.

The example of Komuniboli village on the Guadalcanal plains comes to mind. Sosimo Kuki, the leader of the village decided that a vocational training center was needed. He and his people cleared a site, put up three buildings constructed of local materials--a sleeping house, a classroom and a simple kitchen--and began giving lessons using local craftsmen.

They did work first--before asking for help. They used their own money to buy equipment, used their own trees, and built with their own leaves, posts and bamboo. They strengthened and demonstrated their capability to make effective use of their own talent and resources. Later when they asked for overseas aid to host a meeting of the Rural Training Centre Association, which more than 35 people attended, their request was heard.

RULE 2: Make Reports

A group of village people who really do work together to make their own lives cleaner, safer, healthier and more fruitful must make written reports about it. Village people often hate to make written reports. We prefer to talk about what we did. Here is where we make a mistake.

It is not enough to talk to funders about what our village or group has accomplished. It has to reach them in the form of a paper that makes it hard to forget. At the same time preparing a report requires we take time to reflect on our experience in ways we otherwise might neglect. Preparing a report makes it more likely we will identify and articulate what we have learned. It gives our organization a permanent record for future reference.

RULE 3: Share the Reports

The last rule is that reports must be distributed. Henry Tabusu of the Tauba Training Centre in North Malaita follows this rule. Each time the Centre gives a course on sewing or agriculture or literacy he reports it to the provincial authorities, the Solomon Islands Development Trust, overseas funding groups and others. The Tauba Training Centre is now more than six years old and going strong. It is highly regarded by funding groups because they know what it is doing and how it is helping island groups work together. It is also well known to other groups that might want to draw on its services.

In the end our goal is our own development. Outside funding is only a means--not the end. By following these rules we will not only be more effective fund raisers, we will build our capacities to do more with our own resources. We will be developing ourselves.


Dr. John Roughan heads the School of General Studies at the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education, P.O Box G23, Honiara, Solomon Islands, South Pacific. He was previously advisor to the Solomon Islands Trust. This column was prepared and distributed by the PCDForum based on his article "Ting Ting Long Mi" in The Solomons Voice.

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