Pros and cons of a top-down vs. bottom-up approach


In a top-down approach, you have more control:
  • funding agencies may require detailed plans implemented exactly as planned
  • you (or your funders) are in control
  • cost-effective if successful
  • easy to evaluate: have plans been fulfilled?
  • your target groups may need something different
  • difficult to engage partners & target group
  • difficult to change even if it isn’t working
A bottom-up approach is more likely to respond to your target group’s needs:

  • easier to engage partners, build up momentum
  • possibility to use ‘free’ resources through networking
  • easier to engage target group
  • easier to adapt to different needs
  • ‘natural’ communication networks
  • networking itself may take up resources
  • costs and staff time per target group member reached may be high
  • you can’t have full control if you let people participate and influence your programme
  • more difficult to evaluate & legitimate towards funding agencies

In practice, it is usually not an ‘either-or’ choice. Your project may be situated somewhere on the continuum between fully ‘top down’ (rigid) or fully ‘bottom up’ (responsive).You can also try to select your target group and context so that your interests, potential funding bodies' interests and your target group's interests are as close to each other as possible.