Proposal Stage Planning Guide
Writing a proposal message
The key at this stage is to write a proposal that will attract the attention of
the kinds of participants that you want.
- The subject header
There are lots of project proposals
circulating around the network, so a message with the subject "My project" won't
attract much attention. You should have a short, descriptive but catchy subject
header. Here's a little interactive activity to help you develop an "outstanding" subject
- Proposal assistant: Here's a little tool to help you write a first draft of your project proposal.
- The first paragraph
People looking for projects on the network have a lot to look at in a short time.
Like a newspaper article, your project proposal should contain the most important
information in the first paragraph of the text. Make it concise but descriptive. What will the participants do in your project?
What will the participants gain from your project? How much effort will be required
for them to participate?
- Audience restrictions
Some people have suggested being quite specific about who you want to participate.
However, if you specify that only fifth grade gifted math classes can participate,
you're likely to attract many fewer participants. We have found that networks support much more
diversity among the joint participants than face-to-face interaction, and you can
gain from that diversity if you are open to it. Instead of being restrictive,
give some examples of who might participate and what they might gain from their
- Time line
Network educational projects tend to stretch out over time. Don't try to pack
too much into too short a time. Also, be open to the possibility that things
will take longer, and make your timeline loose enough to enable this.
Don't make your proposal too long. Aim for one screenful. Instead, offer to send more details to
people who indicate that they're interested. This makes an excellent "acknowledgement" message to send back to those who respond to your proposal.
Posting your proposal message
Next you want to send your proposal message to places that will be read by
the kinds of people you want to participate in your project.
Here are some suggestions of where you might want to send your message:
- People you've participated with in other network projects
- Friends and relatives
- Email reflectors
- any relevant groups to which you belong
- any lists from previous projects
- Web sites
You may be deluged with participants, which is a good problem to be faced with. Or you may not get any responses or just a few. This doesn't necessarily reflect badly on your project - you may just need to "recruit" a bit more actively.
The key is to be persistent in recruiting enough participants to make your project a success.
- Check with your friends (local or network), colleagues, and family to see who might be interested.
- If you see requests for "penpals", you can often interest them in your project since people seeking penpals often don't have a well-structured notion of what they want and are often attracted to a good network project.
- If you've participated in other people's projects, then you've built up an informal obligation credit that you can use to recruit those others to your own project. Or you can explicitly make an arrangement with others that you'll participate in their project if they'll participate in yours.
It is critical to send an acknowledgement message as soon as you receive a message
from someone that they're interested in participating. If you don't, they won't be
sure whether you got their message or whether you're really going ahead with the
project, and so they'll wander off to other projects. So, before you send out
your proposal message, you should already have a "acknowledgement" message ready to send, that contains these parts:
- Thank them for their interest
- Provide more details about the project
- Tell them what the next step is
- Invite them to suggest ways to refine the project to be more appropriate for their own needs ("refinement" is the next stage)
Building a participant list
You'll want to build some kind of electronic list of participants, so you can easily send out messages to everyone that wants to participate. There are several ways to do this:
- You can use the "nicknames" or "address book" feature of many email systems. (If the list gets long, after the first "welcome" message during the "organization" stage, put them in a "bcc" field (if that is available), so everyone doesn't have wade through a zillion email addresses before reading the text of a message.
- If you have access to a mail server, you can find out how to set up a listserv or email reflector. The advantage of this is that not only you can send messages to the whole group, but also other participants can do that.
- If you have a web page for your project, you may want to put the participant list there. That helps to build a sense of community for your project.
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Return to the Network Project Planning Guide
Last updated: 29 March 1998