This course is aimed at leaders who plan to:
Ideas which improve the existing infrastructure of the Dark Brotherhood have traditionally come from the top down. All too often, undeveloped ideas are thrown out. This takes up more time than submitting a detailed proposal and decreases the chances of your proposal being acted on.
You have an idea, now you need to sell it to someone. The proposal is your way of convincing someone that your problem is a problem and you have the solution. Depending on the scale you would send it to the relevant people (Think DC’er for their area, Consul for clan projects etc.) In each situation, they will decide if your proposal is worth acting upon. If your proposal is accepted, you will be expected to to complete any promises you made in the proposal.
When writing your proposal, you must focus on two things:
How to make the best case for your plans to be accepted for development?
Is the scope of your proposal feasible?
Because you must fulfil both of these goals in your proposal, you must write from two different perspectives. While you want to write about your idea in the most appealing way possible, you must also carefully define the limits of what you (or others) can provide so that the review board thinks it’s doable.
You may encounter a variety of circumstances which govern the creation of your proposal. The following are some different possibilities:
In each case, the final proposal may be read by a large number of people. It is always a good idea to notify your intended readers that you are working on a proposal; they may be able to provide guidance and let you know if your idea is already being worked on or suggest tweaks to your basic concept that might improve its chances of implementation. It may also make them more receptive, because they will be anticipating and looking forward to your proposal.
Once it’s been submitted, your proposal might be evaluated in any number of different ways. You may find that there are some expectations for what your proposal may contain. What if you need to seek the approval of some entity before you can even spend the time writing a proposal? You need to be prepared for any of these situations and adapt your proposal accordingly. The difference between rejection and acceptance may be determined by how well you plan your proposal.
You are writing to a group of people that may have no idea what your proposal is about until they read its introduction. Their time is limited, and so are their resources. Time is productivity, and if you are wasting their time, they will be unlikely to approve or even consider your proposal. Considerations like those listed above should profoundly affect the manner in which you compose your proposal.
Therefore, understanding who your audience as well as what they want to know is one of the most important keys to writing good proposals.
Your proposal will be considered with great caution. Acceptance of your proposal may mean that time and resources need to be diverted to help on your project. Before a decision like that can be made, your readers need to be convinced that what you have to offer is a better investment. You need to present key information to the readership that will help them make a decision in your favor.
What is the Problem?
The review board will want to know what the problem is with how things are currently done. There must be something motivating your proposal. You need to give them a reason to be interested and understand why your proposal is important to them. Maybe you can help save them time and resources further down the road.
How do you plan to fix the problem?
Is your solution relevant to the problem and fix it? The review board will want to know what you need to do to make your solution a reality. They want to know how you plan to implement this solution.
What resources do you need?
What are the costs associated with your solution? Does the review board need to employ significant manpower and resources toward implementing your solution? Will these expenses be worth it to the review board in the long run?
Are you capable of implementing a solution?
If the review board approvals your proposal, are you or your staff capable of delivering the promised solution? It is important to convince the review board that you (or others) are capable of making the goals of your proposal a reality.
Proposals should have a logically ordered, well-organized structure that helps your review board follow steps in your argument in support for your proposal.
Good organization is necessary for your readers to be able to locate and reference important information throughout your document. The following is a list of how most proposals are structured:
A proposal's introduction tells the review board what you plan to write about. The introduction summarizes the general idea of your document. If you recommend a very small scale project, your introduction need only be a few sentences; for a more complex proposal, you may need to write a paragraph or two. You might also provide the necessary background information which motivates the composition of your proposal. In either case, try to give your readers a reason to continue reading.
It is important to understand how informed your review board is. If the readers you are appealing to are already well informed about the general subject you are discussing, you might eliminate more basic background information as they probably already know about it. On the other hand, if you are addressing a group of readers who know little or nothing about what you propose, you need to inform them. It is often more difficult to persuade a group that has little knowledge of what you propose. Accordingly, it is even more important that you work on providing them with the necessary information which will serve as part of your arsenal of persuasion.
On the same token, it can sometimes be helpful in an introduction to explain why the reader should listen to you in particular. Perhaps you have some form of expertise in the subject matter. Perhaps it is a problem that has plagued you. Or perhaps it was just an idea you thought up at random. Sometimes it helps to let the reader know who you are; give them a reason to trust your judgment.
Now that you have announced your proposal, you need to persuade your readers that your proposal will address a problem or goal that is important to them. If you can sell the idea that a problem exists, your readers will continue reading. If not, your readers will immediately believe your proposal is unnecessary and a waste of their time and resources. Even though your introduction might convince your readers that the proposal will complete its objectives with a minimum of cost, you must still persuade your readers that the problem is relevant to them and worth fixing.
This is arguably the most important part of any proposal. Anyone can create a plan of action to change the status-quo. However, few are able to define a problem which very strongly motivates the need to write a proposal.
Defining a problem will require you to look beyond your own experiences and consult with a variety of members. Oftentimes, you have a very one-sided awareness of the situation that shows a problem. When you get the point-of-view of several others, you may more accurately and more completely define your problem.
There are two situations in which a problem is defined. You either define a problem on your own initiative, which requires far more creativity, or you aim to write a proposal about a problem others have defined for you.
When you have defined a problem through your own initiative, it is especially challenging to convince the review board that your interpretation of the problem is valid. Once you define a problem, your readers may be looking for compelling debate that is on a different level from the persuasive arguments you write in your proposal. It is important to write your proposal in such a way that both you and the review board find it persuasive -- after all, it is the review board that makes the final decision whether to accept or deny your suggestions. What may seem like a useful solution to you is not necessarily useful to others. To ensure that your arguments are aligned with those of your review board, consider creating an argument which shows that your proposal pursues goals common to the members of the board -- in the case of the Dark Council, you might draft arguments in support of your problem by suggesting that your proposal will increase the efficiency or productivity of some other part of the Brotherhood.
If others define a problem for you, you must still put effort into defining the problem yourself, to convince the review board that you understand the problem which needs solving. You must also convince them that your solution is comparable with one that they themselves might consider. Maybe you can think of something especially compelling that they have not yet considered!
Listing the objectives of your proposal provides the base for the reader to go from understanding a valid problem to reaching the final solution that your proposal aims to achieve. To make the strongest logical base, you must draft objectives that come straight out of the problem you have defined. Explicitly recall the part of the problem that each of your objectives addresses in order to add significance between them and the problem.
At the same time, just as your review board may have a predetermined idea of which arguments should be used to define a problem, they may also have specific considerations for which objectives correctly address a specific point within the defined problem. Try to look beyond your biased analysis and consider multiple objectives for the same aspect of a problem -- which are the most valid?
For each listed goal, it is important to not include how you propose to achieve each of your objectives. This allows your readers to independently review the goals of your proposal and then, once they have evaluated your objectives, brainstorm their own method for achieving them. This way, once your proposal is under review, they are not immediately biased toward your proposed method -- instead, they may be able to add new ideas to your proposal.
The board know what you want to achieve but not how. Ask yourself two questions:
You must ensure that your solution addresses each of the objectives so you can solve the entire problem. Furthermore, can you reasonably deliver everything that your solution promises? Do not promise too much. You need to use very precise language and tell the review board exactly what you need to do to complete the outlined objectives. If there are additional plans that you would like to accomplish but you are not sure whether you can promise them, explicitly mention each plan, present each as only a possibility, and discuss the conditions under which you might be able to deliver this auxillary solution to a part of the defined problem.
Remember to consider how others might decide to go about laying out a plan to achieve each of your objectives. One plan of action may not be as correct or efficient as another. Your review board has a lot of experience in determining the best solution. You need to consult with others to determine if your proposed solution may be on the right track. Consider many possibilities before choosing the solution that works best.
While writing how you propose to implement your solution may not be the most difficult part of the proposal, it requires the most effort when your proposal is approved. However, before the review board can approve your proposal, they need to be convinced that not only do you understand the problem and that you have outlined its solution, but that you also know how to produce the results that your solution promises and can do the work it entails. Implementing some proposals requires a high level of proficiency and sometimes tremendous foresight.
Method of Solution
The review board needs to know that you are able to produce the solution which you have promised them. How will you make the proposed solution a reality? In some situations, the method is very obvious to anyone who learns about the problem. If an accepted method is not immediately clear, though, your review board will need to know what you plan to do. Describe your method in a way that convinces your readers that you can produce the result. Describe each part of your plan and how each step will help to achieve the objectives you outlined.
Do you need to assemble personnel or acquire special equipment to arrive at your final solution? If so, describe those resources, their purpose, and how each will help you complete your objectives. This convinces your review board that you have properly allocated the necessary resources to get the job done correctly, the first time. If there is no need to use special resources, there is no point in including this section.
Your review board will want to know the timetable for achieving your solution. Not only do mini-deadlines for each stage of your implementation help to make sure that things get done, but it also lets the review board (or other readers) know when they can benefit from your work. If the review board is donating some of its resources to your project, another project elsewhere may go without those resources. Your timetable will decide how the review board allocates their time on other projects; they want to see how you plan to work the schedule and they will decide whether they think it is reasonable. Furthermore, implementation of your project may at different times include work with different groups, and they need to be able to plan ahead and prepare for any work that needs to be done beforehand. Moreover, having a schedule lets administrators supervising the project see if work is being completed in a timely fashion. If things fall behind, they know to intervene and make sure things get done. Having a schedule can also help workers to pace themselves.
A lot of the persuasion already discussed has been your efforts to show the review board that you know what you are talking about and may be capable of following through with the implementation of your proposal. This is one type of qualification. Beyond being able to write the proposal, do you or your co-workers have the expertise and experience necessary to make the project a success?
Before the review board will invest its time or resources in your proposal, they want to be sure that the project is in capable hands. Since you are likely to be working with others to bring about the proposed objectives, you need to convince the review board that each person is qualified and skilled in their areas of assignment. Make a list of people involved, their skills, and the areas of the project that they will be working on. For each team member, you might consider including a list of prior achievements that are relevant to their assigned duties.
On the other hand, if the review board has personally selected you because of specific talents, it would be redundant to once again explain why you are working on the project. Only include information that is necessary to convince your readers. In any situation, always be sure that you accurately describe each project member's skills -- exaggerating one's skills only adds delays and setbacks to the project since a worker who is assigned to something they are not familiar with will need to gain new knowledge and familiarity with the project.
If the scale of your proposal is large enough, you will need to form a management plan. Establishing a well-planned hierarchy within a team of workers, assigning responsibility, and defining leadership roles are very persuasive administrative efforts and show the review board that you have organized personnel to coordinate and work effectively. Not only can you more easily persuade the review board that you and your workers can get the job done, but you will know where to go if a problem arises during implementation.
As stated previously, when you ask the review board to consider your proposal, you are asking them to dedicate a portion of their time or resources to the consideration and possible implementation of your project. You need to be very exact about what the costs are for everyone involved. In the event that expenses are incurred beyond time and resources, you may need to construct a budget when money needs to be spent -- i.e. for the maintenance of servers or purchase of software. Convince your readers that the benefits of the final outcome of your proposal will far outweigh any cost of implementation.
By now, you have already told the review board everything they need to know. Hopefully, you have made a convincing case for your proposal. In your conclusion, you should summarize the key points of your proposal. You might consider depicting the final outcome of your proposal's implementation and describe why the process that you (and possibly others) have prepared will help to make that outcome a reality. Build confidence in your proposal and in your ability to get the job done and thank the review board for the time they spent reviewing your proposal.
How you present information and make persuasive arguments are key ingredients in writing strong, convincing proposals. Pay careful attention to the following stylistic aspects of your proposal.
Making a compelling argument is the most important part in persuading your review board to accept your proposal. You must be very clear when writing your argument. Furthermore, you should try to present evidence to support your claims. Try to write while considering the perspective of your readers. Choose reasoning and evidence that they themselves might use if they were writing the proposal.
Do not make unsupported assumptions or over-generalize -- be explicit and specific about your claims. Support your claims with facts. Always make a very clear line of reasoning that all of your readers can follow. Can you think of counterarguments that your readers might make as they read your proposal? If so, try to address each counter argument or objection that the review board might make as you write your proposal. Remember to focus on your readers' goals or values -- never forget who you are writing to. Try to organize your argument to generate a favorable response from your readers.
Choose language that presents your proposal in the most understandable, most persuasive manner. Do you use transition words to help make your document flow well? Have you checked your spelling, grammar, and punctuation? Never trust only yourself to proofread -- always ask someone else to assist. Just one glaring grammatical or spelling error could make for a negative response to your proposal.
Does your document look well organized, elegant, and pleasant to the eye? Try to create a hierarchy for elements within your document. Note how this course uses larger sans-serif fonts for titles, bold or italic styles to emphasize headers and subheaders, serif fonts for primary text, and page breaks where appropriate. It is important to use bulleted or numbered lists to highlight important points within your document. You might consider using headers and footers, a table of contents, and/or even a cover page. Never underestimate the importance of creating a professional looking document.
Also, try to organize your document's design elements so that information is easy to find and reference. Your readers may decide to go back within the document at a later time -- they should not have to flip through the pages, lost, as they try to find an important section of your proposal.
A cover letter can add a professional finishing touch to proposal. The standard cover sheet used by many people in the Brotherhood, and featured in the image to the right, shows the proposal's title, sub title and the authors.
It is suggested that you follow the standard cover sheet as it allows the person or people reading your proposal the ability to quickly figure out a little more about what the proposal is in regards to, because of the sub-title. It also lets people know who to get in contact with if they are referring to the document at a later time.
Section 6.a of this course lists some completed proposals and projects, if you wish to you can copy and change the cover sheet from any of those documents.
Background Information: The Grand Master has defined the problem of inefficiency within the Dark Council and specifically asked me to write a proposal to solve the defined problem. The review board is GM Jac Cotelin. Note: This proposal is ridiculously short and so omits some unnecessary elements. Most proposals are longer.
I would like to spend four weeks writing a Shadow Academy course on Proposal Writing so that introducing new ideas to the Brotherhood can be a more efficient process. Currently, the process for introducing and reviewing ideas takes too much time.
New ideas which are sent to the Dark Council are generally unorganized and require a long time to sort through. An excessive amount of time is taken from Dark Council members' schedules to review these ideas. If we could reduce the amount of time wasted on reviewing these ideas, we could increase the efficiency of the Dark Council.
I will write a course which tells innovators of the Brotherhood how to structure and present their ideas to the Dark Council. Only a comprehensive guide describing how to write a proposal will make the presentation of new ideas an efficient process.
April 15 Submit a brief outline for the course April 19 Write the introduction April 26 Write how to structure the entire proposal May 01 Write course examination and sample proposal May 03 Present rough draft, begin proofreading May 10 Release final draft
Method / Resources / Qualifications / Admin / Expenses
Unnecessary, writing a course is a pretty straightforward task. Only one person will be writing it. No management needed. Also, qualifications do not need to be listed as I was directly asked to write this proposal. Only expense is time which is outlined in the schedule.
I am looking forward to the possibility of creating a course which adds structure to the presentation of new ideas within the Brotherhood. It will be a great opportunity to streamline the review process. I hope you give me the opportunity to work on this course.
The following links are two proposals that have been submitted and implemented. They are good references to look at when compiling your own document. Note that the first one is very long, and is not necessarily indicative of the length you should be looking to achieve with your own proposal. The second one is very short, but demonstrates the proper structure to use.
More projects and documents of this nature can be found in the Policies page of the Brotherhood website.
If you have not noticed by now, there are numerous features to every proposal. You need to be ever persuasive, ever vigilant. The same burden is placed on the review board. The review board must carefully scrutinize your proposal. In the case of the Dark Council, accepting your proposal could affect the entire Brotherhood. It is important that every detail is correct, and that the plan of implementation is without flaws. If you have put the effort necessary into writing a well-supported proposal, you have done a great job.
However, you need to be prepared for the chance of the review board either finding a major flaw with your proposal or may completely reject your entire proposal. It is important not to give up in this situation. You have put a lot of work into writing your proposal, and a lot was learned while researching it. You may still be able to salvage a good portion of your proposal. The review board will always give an explanation for their actions and will more than likely provide you with constructive criticism as to how you can alter your proposal to bring it to the level where it may be accepted if you submit it again at a later time.
Here is a simple framework for the lifecycle of any proposal, adapted from Grand Master Pravus:
Here are some tips, some of which have already been covered, that are important to keep in mind:
You must compose an exhaustive proposal for the Dark Brotherhood (or a society, clan, house, etc.) using the elements contained within this course. The proposal must satisfy one of the four possible motives for proposal writing as mentioned in the Introduction. The proposal must be authentic and should not be contrived. Mock proposals will be failed without hesitation. (The intent of this examination is to make the student go beyond this course material, do real research, have consultation, and achieve a strong understanding of everything involved in authoring a proposal). If you need help selecting a topic for your proposal, you may consult with your House and Clan summits or with a member of the Dark Council. Before reaching out to someone for help, though, be sure to thoroughly research publically-available proposals and spend time considering what you like and dislike about the Brotherhood today.
You may choose to complete this exam as a team of collaborators. In this case, each team member must be a member of the Brotherhood and contribute equally, significantly, and uniquely to the proposal. Each member's contribution must be noted within an Appendix of the proposal or as part of a cover page. Those who did not make significant contribution will be failed outright.
All proposals must be submitted to the Professor and Docent of this course who will act as a review board. Members are encouraged to compose their proposals with a common word processing application and send them as an attachment, preferably zipped (especially if your proposal contains graphics).
Should your proposal pass inspection, you are encouraged to submit your proposal to a real review board for evaluation at a later date!
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