Patrick Roth, RADIX Swiss Health Foundation
Compared to the past, demands placed on project managers have increased. Today, there are requirements for target agreements, effectiveness, sustainability, efficiency and synergies between programs and projects. Greater added value is produced when several health promotion projects are planned and managed simultaneously instead of implementing them as single isolated undertakings, and this approach has now become commonplace.
Most readers of this newsletter are working on projects in one form or another, be it as a key person or in any other position where you execute clearly defined tasks. As a project manager for example, you initiate, plan, manage, control and evaluate on a regular basis. As is often the case in health promotion and prevention, you may also be asked to be (co)-responsible for fundraising, submission of applications, networking, quality control and public relations.
In national or regional programs such as the Geneva based program „Marchez et mangez malin!“ („Walk and eat smart! “) (cf. interview with Lynne Thadikkaran), general overall strategies and objectives are first defined for all projects within the program. This renders individual projects more complex, as does the requirement that all stakeholders must be considered and consulted, and demands on project leaders and managers become quickly more challenging. Today, experience in project management may not be the only requirement anymore, a foreign language or two may also be asked. I may be exaggerating here - or may be not! When writing submissions for projects I am now regularly asked to address issues such as - in alphabetical order - assessment quality, benchmarking, best practice, coherence, context, controlling, effectiveness, efficiency or efficacy, empowerment, evidence, gender, implementation, indicators, monitoring, outcome, output, policy, public health action cycle, reporting, salutogenesis, setting, SMART, total quality management (extract from the quint-essenz glossary). In addition, I am also asked to work with the quint-essenz project management tool and to take an active part on the community platform.
Multi-project management is about embedding projects in broader strategies or pooling individual projects to form a program. Because with this approach, synergies are created and effectiveness and cost efficiency in health promotion are improved. And because quality is also a question of a common ‘language’, agreements, policy and finances, of medium term priorities and mutual dependencies, of comparability, support and communication. Specifically, programs demand a common overall perspective and - if possible – the standardization of quality criteria, procedures, guidelines and templates for planning, management and evaluation of projects from the very outset.
A classic example to illustrate multi project management is the long-term national priority program „Ernährung und Bewegung bei Kindern und Jugendlichen“ („Nutrition and physical activity in children and adolescents“). It started with the definition of a (common) long-term vision based on scientific findings (state of the art). The life cycle model was used to identify target groups. The central element of the program, the four-level structure – modules – policy – networking – public relations, is imposed on all participating program partners and is a prerequisite for obtaining co-financing. Moreover, self-evaluation is standardized and annual networking meetings promote coordination and quality.
Another example is the national program „Die Gemeinden handeln!“ („Municipalities Are Acting!“) for a coherent alcohol and tobacco prevention, run by the Swiss Health Foundation RADIX. With the support of RADIX and the cantonal or regional addiction prevention agencies, municipalities are encouraged to run their own local projects but following a tried and tested procedural model and action plans elaborated for local implementation. Objectives and targets are set at program level. In this program, too, the periodic exchange of experiences facilitates coordination and increases the potential impact of prevention efforts.
Quint-essenz is a quality system for health promotion and prevention programs and projects and is provided by Health Promotion Switzerland. Quint-essenz helps tackle the complex challenges of multi-project management. With the help of standardized quality criteria, terms, procedures and tools, a common approach is ensured and the coordination of projects within a program is facilitated. The project management tool helps program managers and individual project leaders to keep track of ongoing projects and guarantees organization-wide fast access to current documents. The platform allows for an efficient exchange of project experiences and ideas and is useful for making programs and projects more transparent to the public as it illustrates the interconnection of all organizations and agencies involved. In summary, Health Promotion Switzerland has established solid foundations and tools for program and multi-project management. Reasons enough to put www.quint-essenz.ch high on the priority list and to re-visit the website sooner rather than later.