2.1 Getting Started

At the beginning of the process, the core planning team—usually from the government and UNDP or the United Nations Country Team (UNCT)—should discuss the planning exercise and how it will be approached. For global, regional and country programmes, projects and UNDAFs, UNDP or UNCT staff should consult their internal policies and procedures for information on the timelines, roles and responsibilities involved in these processes as well as the internal quality assurance and approval arrangements.

Prior to the first planning meeting, information should be collected on the major global, regional, country or community challenges that need to be addressed in the programmes or projects to be developed. This could be collected by either the government, UNDP or UNCT. Possible sources of information include national development plans, poverty reduction strategies, Millennium Development Goal (MDG) reports, national human development reports, gender equality documents, independent evaluations and reviews, country risk assessments, and so forth.

The information collected should be examined in relation to the comparative advantages of either UNDP or UNCT. The purpose of this is for the government and UNDP or UNCT to begin with fairly clear ideas on what the critical issues are and in which areas UNDP or UNCT would be best prepared to provide support. This will help manage expectations and ensure focus during the early stages of planning.

At this stage, attention should be focused on selecting broad areas rather than specific solutions. For example, in the initial discussions around a new country programme, attention should be focused on sectors and broad challenges such as governance, security, environment and climate change. At the project level, initial attention should be focused on the type or nature of the challenges faced (such as inner city unemployment, gender inequalities, national planning and monitoring capacity) rather than solutions (such as microfinance lending and gender awareness programmes.) The aim is to ensure that the areas of work identified are broadly aligned with UNDP or UNCT mandates and capacities while avoiding the risk of predetermining the solutions. Section 2.4 addresses the more detailed process of problem identification and prioritization.

Issues note and draft work plan (first deliverable)

In the initiation phase, the team should put together a brief issues note and draft work plan. This can be refined as the planning process proceeds. The note should capture whatever information is available on the critical challenges that need to be addressed. This is the first deliverable in the planning process. The note may reflect key priorities in national, regional or global policy and strategy documents; concerns expressed by senior public and private officials or community members; as well as the findings of various analyses, such as a national or regional human development report, an MDG report, a community needs assessment, or an agency capacity assessment. The note should have at least three sections:

Section 1: Background and purpose of note

In this section, the core team should outline the rationale for preparing the note. This would generally include:
  1. Background to the note (why the team got together to initiate a planning process)
  2. The nature of the planning process that is being embarked on (preparing for a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, UNDAF, CPD, new project, etc.)
  3. Which stakeholders will be involved in the exercise (Section 2.3 of the Handbook can be used to prepare the initial list of stakeholders. The process should be fluid enough to involve additional stakeholders as more information becomes available during the problem analysis phase. Once the problems are better defined during the problem analysis process, it may be helpful to conduct a second stakeholder analysis to determine which additional persons should be involved.) 
Section 2: Overview of priority issues
  1. Major development challenges identified
  2. Groups most adversely affected
  3. Critical areas of capacity constraints

The overview should, where possible, highlight the different impacts that the problems are having on men, women, and marginalized populations.

Section 3: Work plan for completing the planning exercise

The core team should prepare a simple outline of the activities, schedules and resources for the overall planning process at this stage to ensure that the main issues are considered before additional stakeholders are engaged. The work plan should address a number of issues that the team should consider before actual commencement of the planning exercise. Specifically, the team should ask itself:
  • What is the overall time-frame we have for planning the programme or project?
  1. What are the key milestones in the process that we must meet to ensure that we produce the plan within the expected time-frame?
  2. At what stage will we finalize the monitoring and evaluation plan? (It is usually better to do this as part of the process of preparing the plan so that the same stakeholders can be involved in the process.)
  3. How participatory should the process be given the context within which stakeholders are operating? (See Section 2.3 to help make the decision on how participatory the process should be.)
  4. What resources will be needed for the planning exercises? (For example, facilitators, venues, resource persons, important speakers, etc.)
  5. Who will be responsible for the different elements of the planning process? (For example, organizing workshops, inviting participants, contracting facilitators, etc.)
  6. How much will it all cost?

Table 2 provides a sample format for the work plan. An initial draft work plan can be prepared and subsequently finalized with greater details for specific activities.

Table 2. Sample draft work plan for the planning process (with illustrative examples)

Major Steps

Who Is Responsible for Organizing?

When Will It Take Place?


Recruitment of consultant for data gathering


10 May 2010

Terms of Reference to be prepared by UNICEF and shared with National Planning Agency

Initial brainstorming exercise

Resident Coordinator

15 May 2010

Resident Coordinator’s office will convene initial meeting with key counterparts to prepare analysis

Stakeholder analysis

Resident Coordinator

15 May 2010

Will be done as part of brainstorming

Invitation to stakeholders

Minister of Planning & Resident Coordinator

30 May 2010

Resident Coordinator’s office will send out invitations and make follow-up calls

Planning workshop(s)

1. Orientation and training session for stakeholders

National planning agency

20 June 2010

Resident Coordinator’s office will office will provide logistics support to the national planning agency

2. Problem analysis workshop

National planning agency

27-28 June 2010

As above; the session will include a presentation on Planning with Monitoring and Evaluation in mind

3. Additional data gathering on identified problems

National Planning Agency and consultant

July 2010

(This could be part of a CCA process)

4. Workshop to complete problem analysis and finalize the results framework

National planning agency

14-15 August 2010

As above

5. Meeting to finalise arrangements for monitoring and evaluation

National planning agency

23 August 2010

As above

Review of draft results framework:

1. Review by stakeholders (or by peers)

National planning agency

31 August 2010


2. Review by Headquarters

Resident Coordinator

15 September 2010


Preparation of plan for communication of results framework

Sub-team on communications

22 September 2010

UNFPA communications office to lead








Possible venues – Niagra Hotel and Tunoko Hotel as they are convenient for rural stakeholders


National planning agency


Need facilitators well trained in participatory techniques




Will need communication strategy targeting different types of stakeholders and the general public

Resource persons (e.g. M&E specialist, gender adviser, poverty specialist)



Local experts from government and NGO sector to be involved; UN organizations to explore bringing in experts from respective Headquarters

Consultants (e.g. for data collection)

Resident Coordinator



Equipment and material

Resident Coordinator




Resident Coordinator







It is generally useful for the core team to think in terms of a series of meetings or workshops rather than one planning workshop. This approach is particularly relevant for programme planning but can be useful for large or complex projects as well. In either case, a clear work plan with a schedule and budget is highly recommended.

Note: The issues note and work plan can be used as key elements in preparing the UNCT plan of engagement at the programme or project level and used in the ‘justifying a project stage” for UNDP. Sample plans of engagement and work plans for the UNDAF preparation process can be found on the UNDG website at: http://www.undg.org/toolkit/toolkit.cfm?sub_section_id=301&topid2=on&topid=2.