Project Guidelines for Success

by Peter Kokh

Proposing a Project: Fully "Homeworked" Proposals are more welcome!

We have received many suggestions for Projects that the Moon Society "should undertake" in order to further its goals. They come from Board Members, other leaders, members at large, visitors to our website, and even from friendly leaders of other organizations.

If the person making the suggestion sees no evidence that his or her suggestion is being pursued, discouragement or even rejection of the Society may follow. This is unfortunate. Such situations arise when the proposer has unrealistic ideas of what it will take to undertake the project suggested, and/or very unrealistic ideas about the financial, manpower, and other resources of the Society.

Coming up with an idea is one thing. Making it happen is quite another. Let's start from the top. You have a simple, great project idea. You should consider this:

  • The Society has no paid staff, only members, most of them with day jobs, a few of whom may volunteer some of their limited free time.
  • The Society's principal source of income has been member dues

If someone proposes a project "idea," that means that someone else must examine it, identify all the steps it will take to undertake the project and estimate how many man-hours may be involved, how much money and other resources it will take, as well as identify specific sponsors who may be willing to underwrite all or a portion of the expenses. Just to get this far means that a current volunteer who is probably already too busy, must volunteer to devote a lot of time to completing this homework. The Board cannot consider or vote on a Project Proposal until all this homework and footwork is done.

Now the one proposing the Project idea, can fast forward to the next step, Board consideration, by doing this homework and footwork by him/herself. This we call "fully baking the potato." Sending in a Project Proposal without doing this preliminary work is a lot like sending us "a half-baked potato." We do appreciate your enthusiasm. But if the project means something to you, you might want to invest some time in this preliminary work -- and/or find some associate(s) who can team up with you to put together a "mature" proposal. [Moon Miners' Manifesto will be happy to run an ad for you to find assistance!]

A mature project proposal is far more likely to get Board attention, than one that is not, however potentially great it may be.

Doing this homework first means that you are taking ownership of the idea. In other words, when you put up your hand to say, "I have a great idea," consider how much more it would enthuse your audience if you could add, "and I have done a lot of footwork in examining it, identifying all the steps and phases, all the manpower and other resources needed, where we can get funding and sponsors, etc." Then you will have our attention!

Using the "Lunar Frontier Enabling Test" to assess the merits of a project proposal

Our strategy and game plan are guided by the "Lunar Frontier Enabling Test" which paraphrases the "Space Frontier Enabling Test" formulated by the Space Frontier Foundation.

A "lunar frontier enabling" project, technology, or policy is one which has as its effect the acceleration of the creation of low cost access to the lunar frontier, and to the space frontier in general, for private citizens and companies, and/or which enables or accelerates our use of lunar resources, and/or accelerates the rate at which wealth can be generated on the Moon.

In other words, we ask this question:

Is the project or policy going to provide a return on our investment of time, energy, and money, if we define "return" to be the economically sustainable human habitation of the Moon and of space in general?

We must ask, will this project advance the day when we return to the Moon to stay? Or will it increase public support for such a development? It does not matter if it is an educational outreach or display project, a publicaion project, an artwork project, footwork for a research and development project, a software project, an agricultural project, or whatever else - as long as its major effect is to advance our cause .

It is not hard to come up with a list of projects by various space organizations and/or by their chapters who have not met this test.

The Moon Society has limited resources. We must use them to best effect. The "Lunar Frontier Enabling Test" helps assure that we do just that by filtering out the really good proposals from ones that just look good.

These Mars Society Canada Project Guidelines are also helpful

"Project proposals must meet certain requirements:

  • relevancy to the Society vision and mission,
  • technical merits
  • viability of the project plan,
  • self-sufficiency of the project participants, and
  • potential for drawing in greater member participation.

No fixed proposal format is required for proposals, but proposals must outline

  • project goals,
  • strategies,
  • tactics, and
  • timeline of tasks, as well as
  • project management and
  • funding issues

Detailed specifications for technology development proposals are not necessary, though a general sense of the project development plan is welcome. Proposals that require no more than a few hundred dollars in startup support will be favored. If further fundraising is necessary, strategies for doing so should be specified in the project plan. Keep your initial proposals to a few pages maximum.

Defining the word "Project"

Gail Leatherwood, NSS Chapters Projects Coordinator, defines a project as "something that

  • has a specific objective
  • is measurable and attainable
  • has a beginning and ending
  • and has some quantifiable outcomes

Projects and You

If you would like to help the Moon Society identify, brainstorm, and "homework" a project idea that you think can meet the tests and constraints sketched above, why not print out this page, and keep it handy for guidance.

Keep in mind that we need to do two things:

  • find (a) project(s) that are right for us
    • a good match for our personnel resources
    • a good match for our talent pool
    • a good match for our financial capacity
    • and above all projects that pass the Lunar Frontier Enabling Test
  • Define all the steps and requirements to make the project successful

A "good project" must not be beyond our exercised abilities.

That means that even though a project reaches beyond our past levels of achievements, it does so in a way that brings out capacities we may not have realized were in us. We have to aim high to hit the mark, and that means trying to reach the next level in personal and group achievement. We are all, individually, and together, capable of bursting our own envelopes of achievement.

Our project steps should be ambitious, yet not groundlessly so. Projects become a way not only to grow the Society, not only to advance our goals, but to more fully realize our own talents and abilities.

Let's look for good "right" projects, together!

Back to Projects Page


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