Community Project Well-being Check list

This check list evolved from a conversation between artists present at a Making Time forum in WA in 2017. It aims to support artists and organisations to think strategically about and activate strategies for self care before, during and after projects. You have any suggestions or additions please contact us so we can build this resource together.

Here is the Check list pdf

Below is some additional information if you would like to explore further ideas and provocations.

Recognising Burn Out

Recognising trauma / burn out
  • Poor concentration
  • Irrational fears
  • Frozen smile
  • Glazed over looks
  • Discussion of traumatic or problematic
    experience/issue with emotional
    detachment from content
  • Inconsistencies in behaviour such as
    outbursts of aggression oscillating with
    avoidance of conflict
  • Psychosomatic complaints (eg
    headaches, muscle aches, numbness)
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Disruptive behaviour
  • Restlessness
  • Clinging behaviour / highly dependent on
  • Sleeping issues
  • Low mood
  • Decreased appetite
  • Overreaction to criticism or minor
  • Intrusions of past issues into present
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-harm
  • Difficulty in regulating emotions
  • Inability to work productively and
    effectively with others
  • Impairment of assessment and decision
  • Putting works and participants/community
    at risk
Unhelpful “beliefs”
  • I am totally responsible for my
  • I will be able to make a difference
    with every participant/community I
    work with
  • My participants/community cannot
    cope without me
  • I should be emotionally available at
    all times
  • I should maintain a professional
    distance at all times
  • If I ask for help, I am a failure and
    peers/organsiation will loose respect
    for me
  • It is no safe for me to talk to
    peers/colleagues about my retains to
  • I am the most important person in
    this project/community/participants
  • I must fully understand my
    community/participants or I wont feel
  • Strong emotions will overwhelm and
    damage my participant’s/community
    because they are fragile
  • I must protect my
    participants/community from reliving
    painful events
  • If I am affected by my
    participants/communities story it will
    paralyse me and make me

Coping with burnout / vicarious trauma

  • Maintaining healthy diet (reduce
  • Sleep
  • Exercise and relaxation
  • Acknowledge limits
  • Getting away from it physically & mentally
  • Home transition ritual
  • Maintaining a sense of humour
  • Slowing down & developing mindfulness
  • Spend time with people who celebrate
  • Engage in pleasurable activities
  • Acknowledge and express feelings in
  • Personal therapy
Organisational/Project wide
  • Arrange supervision
  • Develop professional connections
  • Develop balanced work life
  • Remain aware of your goals
  • Boundary keeping – time with community, taking work home, self disclosure, realistic understanding of impact you have
  • Planning for difficult times
  • Professional development
  • Awareness of other services available to you for support
  • Clarity regarding roles, tasks & accountability
  • Taking breaks/holidays

Collaborative Self-care with partners: Questions to ask to establish realistic and collaborative processes

To manage any project starting the process off right means asking questions, but strangely enough, a lot of people are pretty bad at it. Maybe they don’t ask questions at all, or when they do, it only happens after something has gone horribly wrong. Typically, though, the problem lies in asking the wrong questions, questions that are too broad or acute are often met with single-word answers that don’t capture useful details or address key issues.

Before you start any project, take some time to sit down with your organisation/artist/community to ask some tough questions about process, organisational politics, and risks. Asking direct questions will go a long way in ensuring that you’re applying the right processes to the project and setting the right expectations about how your teams will work together.

Pre project

Put processes in place

Ensure that all your projects run smoothly and productively by putting in place, documenting and following processes. Doing work right the first time may take more time upfront, but time spent making corrections takes even more time overall!

Gauge the scope of the project

The scope of the project is the first thing that has to be ascertained. What is the overall aim of the project? What are you looking to achieve? Once you know what the scope of the project will be, a plan can be devised. However, you should be aware that the scope can change throughout the project as different stakeholders ask for more to be included in the final deliverable, so the system must remain flexible.

  • What is the goal of the project? Why is this project necessary? And why will it benefit the organisation/artist/community?

You want to ask this question so you cannot only help keep yourself/team focused on a single goal, but help devise a project strategy that will ensure that you meet it. This ties back to speaking with project stakeholders, and in general should be fairly clear. To be ultimately successful, gather as much data as you can early on. Get numbers, projected returns, and other tangible figures that can help drive your project forward. This informs the schedule, too, as the lengths of sprints and quarters are rooted in required outcomes, which invariably trickles down into project timelines.

  • There are lots of good programs/projects in the world.  What makes this program unique, innovative, worthy, exceptional, stand out from the others?
  • Why should anyone who is not you, your staff, or your participants care what happens in this project?
  • What are the organisation/artistic/community objectives to be achieved with delivery of this project?
  • What are the expected benefits of this project to the organisation/artist/community?
  • Have appropriate elders/communities been part of planning the project?
  • What skills and knowledge do the participants/community bring to the project?
  • Is there a list of key elders/community representatives to connect with prior to starting?

Visit them individually to see what they have to say about the project in general (objectives, requirements, risks, other people that I might need to see, concerns, …). After each interview update the project plan and send it to them for review.  Only when you have all individual points of view, is when you can start scheduling joint meetings with several stakeholders to get agreement on the points that are unclear, different, contradictory etc., as appropriate.

  • Are there any points in the process that some stakeholders might not understand that we can explain?

It’s not uncommon to educate your org/artists/community/stakeholder about your work. This may come in the form of presenting your plan and explaining your process and each deliverable. It might mean you have to explain the intent of a deliverable before you present it. Either way, knowing just how much effort you should put in to explaining things will help you to form a trusting relationship with your org/artists/community/stakeholder and set you up as the expert.

  • Who owns the project? Who else is on your project team?
  • What is orgs/artists/stakeholders responsibility to the community/participants?

Every project has an owner. It might be the person you’re talking to. It might be that person’s boss, hopefully it is the community as well. No matter what, you need to know who’s going to give you final approval. No matter what you do, you want to be sure that the owner of the project is looped in and informed at the right steps. Ask this question and sort those details out before you start work.

  • Who are the key stakeholders? Who’s the owner/sponsor? Who influences but doesn’t own? Who has the potential to be an obstacle?
  • Is it an ongoing project? When will it start? End? Is it a seasonal project?  If so, why and what are its dates?
  • Why have you chosen this plan?
  • What are the elements of the program?  What specific things do the participants do?
  • Do different things happen at different times?  Month by month, or week by week if necessary, what is going to happen?  Can you chart it?  If you can’t, why not?  If you can’t, how do you explain to someone who is not familiar with your project how it works?
  • Do different participants do different things?  If so, what makes all these things into a whole?
  • What is required to ensure commitment to project from community/stakeholders?
  • When do we/the artists/org/stakeholder step in/out of presentation/participation/decision making and when does the community hold the space?
  • Signature page: Is this available should it be established? Ask the community/organisation/artist/stakeholder to approve this document, signifying that they agree on what is planned.

Set the success criteria

How is the success of the project going to be defined? By the quality of the finished work? By the amount of money it costs? By the length of time taken to complete it? Whatever the factors for success are, they must be measurable and aligned to the objectives of the org/artist/community/stakeholder – in this way, the Key Performance Indicators – markers of success –  can be defined.

  • How will you and your client determine if the project is successful?

Why not set your team up for success? If you have a goal in mind and some metrics around those goals, you and your org/artist/community/stakeholder can determine what will make the project a success.

  • How will the success or failure of this project impact the overall business? (And how will we measure that outcome?)

We may want to complete projects successfully 100% of the time, but let’s face it, that doesn’t always happen. In order to prioritise project focus, develop an honest, business-oriented assessment of your project’s impact on the organisation/artist/community as a whole. It’s easy to get stuck on how the project is impacting your team/organisation/artist/community without considering why doing it at all is beneficial for the team/organisation/artist/community as a whole.

Measuring the outcome is a given, but how that’s going to be done—whether it’s calculated through increased participation or physical deliverables—should be established up front and will play a huge role in how the project is executed.

  • What does project success mean to you (organisation/artist/community/stakeholder) How do you define success?
  • How are we going to measure success?
  • How much risk are you willing to take to accomplish this?
  • Who will maintain this project? How will this transition happen?
  • How will you evaluate the project?  What methods will you use?  Why did you choose those methods?  What will the evaluation tell you?  Why is that information useful and to whom?
  • Is there a research aspect to this proposal?  If so, do you have the right data? Do you have the people involved who can analyze the data
  • When you show the results to someone who does not know anything about the project, will they understand where you started, how you got to the end, why you took this route to get there, and how the results relate to the beginning?
  • What are the project’s greatest assets?
  • How can we best leverage those assets?
  • What are the most important areas we should always focus on?
  • As an organisation/artist/community/stakeholder, how important is to meet these goals, objectives?
  • What barriers have you encountered in the past about this issue?
  • What keeps you up at night about this?
  • If the project doesn’t succeed, what are the implications?
  • What is specifically out of scope?
  • What are the biggest obstacles to getting this done?
  • Will overall project benefits still be achieved if we are not able to deliver specific deliverables as desired?
  • What is your personal passion about this project? What will this mean to you when we succeed?

Identify major risks

A proactive org/artist/community/stakeholder tries to resolve potential problems before they happen by developing a risk management plan. Yet, not all issues can be foreseen and the unlikely can occur—so don’t be afraid of what might go wrong! Some things are simply out of your control and you will inevitably make mistakes in your career. The key is to learn from your mistakes by understanding what didn’t work and how you can improve upon it the next time around.

  • Is there anything that would prevent the project from being successful?
  • What are the potential risks and roadblocks? (And what can we do to prevent or overcome them?)

  • This is a very important question to consider from the outset. Failing to complete a thorough risk analysis at the start of a project can completely stall progress later on. But that’s not to say this should be a process done alone. Talk to stakeholders—from each person on your project team to folks in the community, if it’s appropriate—since they’re likely to have individual investments in the outcome, unique insight into the organisation/project/community/issue, and a variety of different expectations or suggestions. Once the risk factors are established, work with these stakeholders/community to agree on a strategy to prevent issues.
  • Why is this project so important?
  • What is the case for activation/change/engagement/shutdown?
  • What problems are you facing and how do you consider this project will circumvent those obstacles?
  • What events/issues/concepts are you taking for granted (assumptions), and what events/issues/concepts are you concerned about?
  • Will the right hardware and infrastructure be in place?
  • How will disputes be settled?  Is there a written agreement?
  • Who are the independent mediators for the community/artist/organisation if trouble/disagreement erupts that cannot be resolved within the group?
  • What is the resolution strategy? When do we move from one phase into the next regarding mediation and resolution?
  • What happens if there is no resolution?
  • A problem may be the difference between your current state and your goal state, but it is also an opportunity for improvement. Be confident in your abilities to brainstorm and implement solutions. After all, a problem can be a real break, the stroke of luck, a chance to get out of the rut of the everyday and make yourself or some situation better. Note that problems need not arrive as a result of external factors or bad events. Any new awareness you have that allows you to see possibilities for improvement brings a “problem” for you to solve.
  • Has your team/organisation/community been through a project like this in the past?
  • History can teach us a lot when it comes to running projects. If your organisation/artists/community/stakeholders have run similar projects, they might be able to share some insight on how to make things run smoothly. The more you can learn about what does and does not work when it comes to running projects within your organization/community, the better prepared you’ll be to create a process that will work for them.
  • Who is working on this project? (And who are they working with?)
  • While it’s important to establish guidelines, they don’t mean much if the right person, possessing the appropriate skill set and vision for a project, isn’t following them. The obvious course of action would be to identify project team members, however, there are some more ambiguous considerations. For example, establish clear connections among people who’ll be collaborating with each other, integrate their schedules and break times to ensure maximum people resources are available, and note how their role in the project will affect their role in the project team.
  • What does the team/staffing look like?  Who is going to supervise whom?  Who does what and who is responsible for what? Who is doing what to whom?
  • If you have partner organisations, how is the work divided?
  • Do you have partners?  If so, who are they?  What are their roles?  Do they need resources to do what they have committed to do?  Do you have a written agreement with them?  Are you going to get one?
  • How many kids/adults are you going to serve?  How are they to be recruited?  How old are they?  Why that age?  When do they become involved?  What are their ethnicities?  What is their socio-economic background? Is there anything else that is important about them—disabilities, gender.
  • Where do they live/work/go to school?  Is this important to understanding the program?
  • Do you have any specific expectations or concerns about project team, the project itself?
  • How much are you (organisation/artist/community/stakeholder) involved in this project? In other words, what are the risks to you, if this project does not get delivered successfully?
  • Who is going to be involved on organisation staff, on someone else’s, volunteers, in the community?
  • What do you expect of me as a manager/artist/community/stakeholder for this project?
  • What are the limitations and assumptions associated with this project? (in terms of cost, resources, time, and scope)


  • Where are the resources coming from? (And where are they going?) In other words, where’s the budget coming from that will support the project?
  • Where is the budget line for self-care/supervision needs?
  • What about non-monetary resources, like supplies or office space?
  • Where will you go for approval on spending, travel, or completion of different steps?
  • Where will you be allocating these resources throughout the project? Equally as important is the quality of any resources you use. Don’t just take whatever’s tossed your way; instead, find a balance between cost and worth and use these insights to enable you to request these resources.

If you need to pay for anything….find out what it will really cost. Don’t guess.

  • What are all the real costs?  Whose time is involved and how much is their time worth even if they are not part of the proposal?
  • Do you need to pay for consultants/community? Stipends? People at partner organisations?
  • Do you need to pay for computers, paper, art materials, electricity, heat, light, etc.?
    Are there expenses that the organisation will not pay for, e.g. travel, volunteer catering?  If so, how are those going to be covered


  • What is the project deadline? What are the factors or events that are calling for that date?

Milestones, such as the completing of an important part of the project, help the process keep its structure and keep different teams in the loop with regard to which milestones need to be completed before they can begin certain jobs or tasks.

Milestones can be used as a focal point for the team, for the monitoring and forecasting of the entire project and for reporting throughout. Setting them using the SMART acronym should go a long way towards ensuring the smooth progression of the process.

Every project has a deadline. Sometimes they’re arbitrary, other times they’re related to a big event, meeting, campaign, or something that will require you to be 100% done. Don’t just take the deadline and create a plan that could or could not make it. Create a plan that is based on the urgency of a final date and keep that in sight.

  • Is this deadline realistic?
  • What are the milestones for reassessment of project outcomes?
  • When can each milestone be accomplished? (And when is the last-drop deadline?)

This might seem simple and obvious, but it is a very important element. Know your schedule, and make sure that you cushion it whenever possible to maintain flexibility. Work backwards from the final deadline, but take into account that it can always change. You also should remember to anticipate holdups: that way, when they don’t happen, your team can spend this time to do some fine-tuning.

  • Are there any dates when you will be closed or not available?
  • Where are the check in / reflection times allocated for the artist/team to look at personal reflection?
  • What is the plan that must be followed to ensure that everything happens?
  • Where are the problem areas and have you left enough time, resources, options to solve them?  For instance: How long will project participant recruitment really take?  If it takes longer, then what happens to your schedule?
  • How will you keep the program on track?
  • Is there any other project dependent on this project or vice-versa? How are they expected to be delivered in tandem?
  • How important is this project relative to other related projects?
  • What are the key milestones? What are the most important dates?
  • As we will breakdown project deliverable, will these individual deliverable provide benefit/value of its own which will realize overall-expected benefits?
  • Who should be involved in planning meetings – community, staff, legal, finance?
  • What are the most important decisions that need to be made? What will prevent us from making those decisions?


If you’re accepting org/community/artist/stakeholder feedback and iterating on any of your deliverables, you want to be sure that you’ve made your org/community/artist/stakeholder think about that process. There is nothing worse than receiving 5 sets of conflicting feedback and having to sort through it all—it’ll confuse you, annoy you, and set your timeline on fire. Talk about the feedback process and set expectations early on about how you’d like to receive feedback, and who should be involved.

  • Has your team discussed who will be the main point of contact and how you will handle the feedback process?
  • How will you manage meetings? Do you have rooms? Scribes? Whiteboards? Conference lines?
  • Is there a preferred mode of communication?

You’re going to be in touch with your org/community/artist/stakeholder multiple times a week/month, whether that be by phone, email, instant messenger, carrier pigeon, what have you. The thing is, you want to be sure you’re getting in touch with your org/community/artist/stakeholder via the mode of communication that will get their attention. Ask what works best for them and adapt your style to get what you need from your org/community/artist/stakeholder (or just tell them how you want to communicate and see if they’re ok with that.

  • How will community/organisation/artist/stakeholder be informed/communicated whenever major deliverables are delivered?


  • What tools will you use to track schedule, budget, issues, risk, minutes, actions, etc.
  • What do you need to do this?  Permission? Insurance? Equipment? Supplies? Extra help?
  • What is the method and format for your incoming and outgoing status reports?
  • What supplies do you need? Paint, pens, paper, stickies, staples, binders, printer paper, coffee, candy? Who will keep this stuff stocked up for your team/community. How can you buy a USB stick if you need one without having to wait 10 days for a requisition to be signed by a manager?
  • How will you manage people based information? Contact details? Break calendars? Email lists? Physical / Logical Security for building access, software, folders, etc.
  • What are we missing – anything that will change the basic premise of this project? Does original project objective still hold good?
  • What topics haven’t we discussed? What topics would you rather not discuss?

Before you jump onto that first call, there’s one word of advice we’d like to share about asking questions like these: Don’t read them off like a script. Use these as a guide to a conversation. A natural exchange about important project details will instil comfort and trust in your org/community/artist/stakeholder relationship, because your org/community/artist/stakeholder will view you as the expert—the project driver who truly has both hands on the project steering wheel.


Hold regular team/community meetings

Team meetings don’t have to be useless, dull, and never-ending. You can distribute information, solicit feedback, set time lines, line up resources, and update all your stakeholders in just a few minutes, something that would take days to accomplish in email or one-on-one.

Who else shares the responsibility?

  • What is working properly with this project? And what is not working as expected?
  • Is there anything that we should not do or stop doing or change doing it?
  • Are we able to deliver project in a manner to meet project objectives?
  • Why are we doing this when it was not planned before?
  • What is the business/community case for this unplanned change – how it is aligned with overall strategy, desired benefit?
  • If we decide to do this change, how will it affect our course and ability to meet desired project objectives?

Continue to assess potential risks throughout the project

Once the project begins, periodically perform an updated risk assessment to determine whether other risks have surfaced that need to be managed.

  • Risk – what will be the impact of this risk if it occurs in future? How adversely or positively it will impact our course of delivering project and meeting objectives?

Praise your team for accomplishments…no matter how small

Everyone likes to feel important, valued and appreciated. Often, projects get so involved that we forget about the little things such as a “job well done” or a pat on the back. If you make it a priority to give sincere praise on a regular basis, you will have well-motivated and highly-effective team members.

Time management is critical

As project managers/artists, time management probably comes naturally, or not. But, what do you do when your resources have been cut, and you’ve got twice as much to do? To really “do more with less,” you’ve got to become more productive. So, why not make it a necessary part of each day, to plan the next day? Keep your “to-do” list wherever you want, but make it work for you, whether it’s on your computer or good old fashioned notebook—something as simple as this can help you identify top priorities, eliminate time wasters, and get rid of wasteful processes. Having it in public space makes all people involved in the project aware of strategies and priority needs.


You can’t do it all yourself. Delegating not only provides team members/community with opportunities to hone their skills, but it also shows that you trust them to get the job done — no one likes being micromanaged! But as a side note, remember that YOU are accountable for the project, or your part of the project, and regularly checking in with your team members is a smart way to ensure completion of all delegated tasks.

Look for warning signs

Look for signs that the project may be in trouble. These could include the following:

  • A small variance in schedule or budget starts to get bigger, especially early in the project. There is a tendency to think you can make it up, but this is a warning. If the tendencies are not corrected quickly, the impact will be unrecoverable.
  • You discover that activities you think have already been completed are still being worked on. For example, costumes that need to be completed are not.
  • You need to rely on unscheduled overtime to hit the deadlines, especially early in the project.
  • Team/community morale starts to decline.
  • Deliverable quality or service quality starts to deteriorate. For instance, participants start to complain that their workshops are not as welcoming/comfortable.
  • Quality-control steps, testing activities, and project management time starts to be cut back from the original schedule. A big project can affect everyone in your organization/community. Don’t cut back on the activities that ensure the work is done correctly.

If these situations occur, raise visibility through community/org/team meetings, and put together a plan to proactively ensure that the project stays on track. If you cannot successfully manage through the problems, raise an issue with key orgnisers/stakeholders.

Resolve issues as quickly as possible

Issues are big problems. The project manager should manage open issues diligently to ensure that they are being resolved. If there is no urgency to resolve the issue or if the issue has been active for some time, it may not really be an issue. It may be a potential problem (risk), or it may be an action item that needs to be resolved at some later point. Real issues, by their nature, must be resolved with a sense of urgency.

Guard against scope creep

Most project managers know to invoke scope-change management procedures if they are asked to add a major new activity or a major new deliverable to their project. However, sometimes the project manager doesn’t recognize the small scope changes that get added over time. Scope creep is a term used to define a series of small scope changes that are made to the project without scope-change management procedures being used. With scope creep, a series of small changes — none of which appear to affect the project individually — can accumulate and have a significant overall impact on the project. Many projects fail because of scope creep, and the project manager needs to be diligent in guarding against it.


  • What have we learned from this project? What can we do better next time?
  • How would you rate y/our performance, engagement in delivering this project?
  • Will you work with us again / give us opportunity to work with you again?

Formally closeout the project

There are important lessons to be learned through the project closeout phase. Projects can be mined for best practices and lessons can be shared and leveraged across the organization; these insights should be documented along with any possible improvements for next time. The project closeout is also an important time for recognition. The project team/organisation/artists/community/stakeholders has spent a great deal of time and effort on the project which leads us to our last words of wisdom…


People need time to celebrate and relish in the successes of the project. As well, if the project did not go smoothly, it is important to capture the lessons learned and give the team a chance to let go of the past so they can move on to future work. Working on projects is often hard work requiring many hours of dedication. This is why it is important to recognize team/artist/community contributions to making any project a success. This may be done with the team/artists/community at a celebration ceremony or with individual members being rewarded for each of their contributions.

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Creative Recovery Network

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