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Smart Project Planning

Page history last edited by Alexandra Pittman 9 years, 8 months ago


Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. MDG3 Fund. 2008. “Applying the SMART Concept.”


The SMART project planning document sets out a general framework for monitoring and evaluating MDG3 Fund grant recipients’ projects. The SMART concept is used as the guiding framework for outlining major project activities, sub-results stemming from activity implementation, and the project goals. Achieving these intended goals then serves as the primary method for assessing project success. Goals and activities are developed to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, and Time Bound.



  • This is a simple, clear, and straightforward tool for outlining the main project objectives and for developing indicators.
  • The SMART concept is widely recognized as important to consider when creating strong objectives or indicators.
  • There is no need for specialized monitoring and evaluation (M&E) training.
  • It is fairly straightforward to assess and determine goal achievement.


Weaknesses (or not designed for):

  • Typically, the SMART concept is used to help shape indicator (or objective) development in the midst of a broader M&E framework.  By limiting M&E by using the SMART tool as the primary assessment mechanism (as done with the MDG3 Fund), little can be said about how or why a program worked.
  • The SMART tool focuses on measuring primarily goals and outcomes precludes other learnings, which provide valuable lessons to the women’s movement, e.g., challenges, unexpected consequences, most effective means of implementation, and identifying the pathways and levers of the intended change.
  • There is an embedded logical fallacy in the SMART tool. The notion that implementing activities will lead to successful program results and goals lacks traction, particularly as the process of implementing the program is not specified or assessed with the SMART tool. Thus, there are no learning and feedback channels embedded in the assessment. We can only identify if a goal was achieved or not. We have no mechanism for determining the pathways that lead to goal achievement or if there was a breakdown point in the path to goal achievement. 
  • The SMART tool does not attend to contextual conditions that may constrain or augment program results and goals.
  • There is no distinction between short-term and long-term goals.
  • The SMART tool is supposed to help determine “success”, but it is unclear what success means.
  • Power remains obscured. Additionally, there is no accounting for multiple voices. 


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