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Project Quality: Training and Guidance

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This page contains information and training resources produced by the Project Management Unit (PMU) in the APEC Secretariat, to guide the design of quality projects in APEC. The delivery of capacity building projects in APEC economies supports the implementation and realisation of strategic APEC policies, in particular the Putrajaya Vision. APEC projects translate into actions and outcomes, the high level policy objectives set by Ministers and Leaders in APEC; and advance the ECOTECH agenda and capacity building in APECAn APEC project is considered successfully delivered when the PO can demonstrate that the intended outcomes from the approved Project Proposal have been achieved.

Drafting Concept Notes and Project Proposals

Concept Notes

Concept Notes (CNs) are the initial 'application form' for APEC project funding. They must be endorsed by your APEC forum before they progress to scoring by all APEC economies. Successful CNs are expanded into 14 page Project Proposals. 

  1. Use clear and concise language so that all readers can readily grasp the issue or problem your project seeks to address, and how; and what outputs will be delivered. Outputs are the project activities and events such as Workshops, Meetings, Policy Dialogues; and written products such as Reports. Give each of your outputs a name (e.g. Final Report) and use the same name consistently throughout the CN. Since APEC projects are given 18 months to complete, try to limit your outputs to 3, to ensure you have sufficient time to plan, deliver and report them to a high standard and in accordance with APEC policies and processes. Remember that the Outputs you list in the CN will be those you take forward into the Project Proposal.
  2. Ensure that your project aligns with APEC priorities and has a strong capacity building focus, since this is what APEC projects are about. Projects help translate APEC policy directions into actions, therefore it’s important that your project theme is relevant and aligns with current APEC goals and priorities. Building capacity across APEC is best achieved by convening APEC member economies to engage on common policy issues and challenges, sharing information and experiences, and identifying best practice and opportunities for collaborative approaches and solutions. Learn about capacity building in APEC in the Guidebook on APEC Projects.
  3. Seek co-sponsorship early. Reach out to member economy representatives in your forum to discuss your project concept when you are in the early stages of drafting the CN, and share your draft for feedback and to gain the required number of co-sponsoring economies. In most cases, this is 2, but some fora require more. Seek advice from your Program Director.
  4. Make sure your project does not duplicate others already delivered in your forum. If your project is on the same theme or issue as previous projects, ensure that you focus on a different aspect or dimension of the issue, and avoid repeating work that has already been undertaken by others. Research previous APEC projects using the APEC Project Database.
  5. Make sure your project is eligible for APEC funding. APEC is not a technical or research and development organisation, and projects involving design, development, testing and manufacturing of prototypes, processes or systems are not suitable as APEC capacity building projects. Note that APEC asserts sole intellectual property ownership of project outputs (refer to the APEC Intellectual Property Policy).
  6. Research your budget. The APEC budget proposed in the endorsed CN is treated as the funding cap for the project thereafter. 
  7. Do a final edit of your CN before you circulate it to forum members and submit it to the Secretariat for forum endorsement, to ensure it is free of errors, typos, the formatting is consistent, it does not exceed 4 pages and you have not used any disallowed language (refer to APEC nomenclature in the APEC Publication Guidelines Part 2 ‘Style Manual and Accepted Nomenclature’). 

Project Proposals

Project Proposals (PPs) are based on the endorsed Concept Note, and detail the design of your project outputs, the project budget, and how the project will be implemented and evaluated. 

  1. Ensure that there is a clear relationship between your Outputs and Outcomes, and that they align with the project Objective. Outputs are project activities and products, such as events and publications. It is through delivery of the Outputs that you will achieve your Outcomes, and the overall Objective. Outcomes are the changes, impact and benefits your project will achieve on completion. Outcomes should be able to be measured within the project’s lifecycle – for example, through post-event participant evaluation surveys.
  2. Provide as much detail as possible about your Outputs – In the Outputs section, describe their purpose, scope, structure and content. If the output is an event, provide a tentative agenda or program to show how the event will be structured, its duration, key topics of focus, and the role of speakers and participants. If a publication, describe the proposed report structure and estimate page length. Use the same name for each of the Outputs throughout the Proposal. If you intend your project report to be published on the APEC website as an APEC publication, state this clearly. Make sure the names for these outputs are consistently used across all sections in the Proposal.
  3. Identify as many performance indicators as possible for your Outputs and Outcomes. Setting indicators will enable you to evaluate whether you have successfully delivered your project. In the Monitoring and Evaluation section, include targets to better measure this – for example, a target number of participating economies, target percentage of participants reporting knowledge gain in a particular policy area etc. Inform how you will measure these indicators, such as by conducting an event evaluation survey. Note that you must also set gender participation targets.
  4. Define the project’s Target Participant Profile in the Beneficiaries section. This will ensure participants with the ‘right’ skillsets attend your project event, which in turn will maximise project outcomes and impact. POs are to provide a clear description of the Target Participate Profile for the project event or product, for example the target groups or sectors, the desired experience and expertise, the ministries, organizations or industries that are most relevant, and the contributions participants are expected to make to the project. This Profile will be included later in the event nomination form that are sent to economies.
  5. Ensure that all items and services in your project budget are eligible for APEC funding (refer to Chapters 8 and 11 in the Guidebook on APEC Projects). Allocate budget to support capacity building events (such as cost of Travel). Provide a detailed breakdown of the contractor fee, including a list of tasks with hours and hourly rate. Note that your project budget may be reduced during the quality assessment process, as the Secretariat is obligated to assess project budgets on behalf of members to ensure maximum efficiency and value for money. 
  6. Do a final edit of your PP to ensure that you have addressed all sections, and that it is written clearly and concisely and does not exceed 14 pages. Check also that it is free of errors, typos, and technical jargon, the formatting is consistent with the template and you have not used any disallowed language (refer to APEC nomenclature in the APEC Publication Guidelines Part 2 ‘Style Manual and Accepted Nomenclature’).

Contracting and Procurement in APEC Projects

  1. Most APEC projects engage contractors to undertake project work such as event planning and management, research, analysis and report writing. Contracts are signed between the identified contractor and the APEC Secretariat (not the PO). However, POs work closely with contractors.
  2. Note that contracting takes time (usually between 6-8 weeks). It should be the first task on your project Workplan (in your Project Proposal). Refer to the procurement and contracting information in Chapter 11 of the Guidebook on APEC Projects and templates in the PO Toolkit.
  3. POs are responsible for ensuring that the day to day work of contractors follows the scope of services outlined in the contract or Work Undertaking. POs should maintain regular contact with contractors to ensure that project related issues can be communicated effectively, and must contact the Secretariat immediately if a contractor is not meeting contractual obligations.
  4. High quality Terms of Reference (TOR) and Requests for Proposal (RFP) documentation is essential for good contracting outcomes. These documents are the source document for the eventual contract, so TORs and RFPs must provide clear and detailed descriptions of the tasks and deliverables, including any specifications or standards, and the timeframe for delivery. 
  5. All TORs and RFPs must be approved by the Secretariat before the contract is drafted and signed. The Secretariat will review draft ToRs and RFPs and request changes as required. 

Training Materials

Presentations on Project Quality (Concept Notes and Project Proposals)

Developing Quality Concept Notes and Project Proposals_September 2023

PMU presentation on APEC Project Proposals and Budgets (February 2023)

APAS Presentation on Project Proposals for Project Overseers_September 2023

Presentations on Project Implementation

Procurement and Contracting

Budgeting for APEC Projects

Event Preparation

Monitoring and Evaluation

APEC Publications

Project Publications (recordings)

PMU Training Videos New!


Video Walkthrough of the Concept Note Template 


Introduction to Concept Note Template 2024 - Project Overseers