Exit strategy

The application form demands a description of the exit strategy of the project. Think about answering questions like:

  • What should the exit strategy accomplish?
  • Which activities and results of the project should be maintained once it is over?
  • What does the project expect from each stakeholder once the external support is withdrawn?
  • What should be done in the project to ensure that the stakeholders have the needed capacity to continue the operation started by the project?

The exit strategy is a plan that clarifies how the project will end or transform. Another wording could be the long-term plans of the project, how the results from the project will be taken further. The exit strategy needs to be designed jointly from the beginning and revisited regularly as the project evolves. Some projects will either transform into, or be handed over to, more permanent structures with little or no business involvement, while other projects will simply terminate, becoming a source of inspiration for future initiatives. Because of their transient nature, projects generally emphasize the importance of sustaining their positive outcomes and impact.  An exit strategy therefore guides the termination or handover of a successful project.

Development of cooperation projects aim to bring permanent and durable changes. This means the changes the project brings should not be left dependent on the external support once the project is over. For lasting changes, a well-managed termination of the project needs to be planned in advance. The project termination should always be considered in its exit strategy to ensure that the project results will remain to benefit its beneficiaries or right-holders even after it is completed.

An exit strategy is a process that follows through all stages of the project cycle. The preliminary exit plan is drafted together with the partners during the project planning stage and the plan is defined during the project. The necessary modifications to the exit plan are made with the help of the follow-up data. During the project implementation, monitoring and evaluation process, the exit strategy also puts emphasis on learning together with the partners, and so ultimately on the improvement of the operations.

Establish the exit strategy jointly with the project partners. Jointly building an exit strategy in the early phases allows partners to clearly outline what they want to have achieved at the end. Critically, the process will also highlight discrepancies in participants’ levels of ambitions and expectations with regard to the sustainability of a project, providing a window of opportunity to foster shared understanding of constraints to longevity and to enhance the design of the project at the outset. It makes sense to elaborate this strategy once the broad objectives, structures, and processes of the project have been defined and before they have been implemented.

The exit strategy that is planned and implemented together with the partners from the beginning of the project:

  • Increases chances of the project to achieve better and durable results.
  • Clarifies roles.
  • Reinforces the commitment of stakeholders to the project.
  • Reduces dependence on external financing at its best.
  • Compels to consider the operational environment and stakeholders in the planning stage.
  • Increases the ownership of the project.

Programme manual