Photo credit: pxfuel

By Lydia Callies

Not much has changed for me since writing my first blog a month ago. There’s still a global pandemic. I’m still sitting in my apartment in Ottawa. In a lot of ways life feels a bit like it’s standing still.

Luckily, as much it might feel this way, it isn’t actually the case. The project that I am working on with my colleagues in Cambodia is moving forward, and for the four of us in the project team and our technical advisor, this is a big deal. Despite a slow start and many revisions to the project design we’re finally getting to the point where we can start the implementation of some of the project activities that we’ve been planning.

The past three months that I’ve been working on this project have been truly eye-opening. As an intern, I’ve had the unique experience of actively participating in the process of designing a UNDP project. During this exercise, I’ve been witness to the amazing level of dedication shared by my colleagues who have all been working tirelessly to push the project forward. I’m convinced that some days my colleagues don’t sleep at all. For those who might wonder why so much work is going into this exercise, it’s because project design isn’t just a practice of checking boxes. Every part of the project is carefully considered: what problem is the project really trying to address? What is the demand to address this problem and from whom does it come? Are the planned activities responsive to the problem? What kind of impact is feasible given the project’s budget and timeline? Will the impact be sustainable? Etc. These questions, and others, inform the entire process of project design. This means that seemingly small elements such as “who will deliver training,” can take a few weeks to decide. With so much to consider, it’s no wonder that it takes so long!

Each of us on the project team is responsible for specific activities. One of the activities that I’m working on is communications outreach. This means that I’m responsible for planning the public face of the project. Planning this activity, I’ve come to appreciate how interesting it is to strategize communications. For instance, Cambodian youth are a significant target audience for the project. To help come up with ideas for a communications approaches that would appeal to youth, I participated as an observer in a focus group discussion, organized by an innovation-driven market research company, on the ways in which youth use and consume different forms of media. With the help of the event’s translator I learned a lot. For instance, the focus group revealed that Facebook is one of the main platforms through which Khmer youth access the news. Small insights like these are hugely helpful in developing the project’s communications outreach plan. It isn’t possible to share information with everyone all at once. Instead, by knowing which platforms are most popular among target audiences, as well as how these platforms are used, it is possible to spread information in a more strategic way so that the people who will benefit the most from the information will be among the first to get access.