Learn how PMIEF liaisons and volunteers are using innovative thinking, dedication and PM training to transform communities and change lives
Generosity of expertise, time and human spirit propels PMI chapters in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region to bolster individuals and nonprofit organizations both within their communities and well beyond. Here is a sampling of chapters that are effectively spreading the ideals of Project Management for Social Good® with support from PMI Educational Foundation (PMIEF).
PMI Madrid Chapter
When Fernando Ley, PMI Madrid Chapter board member and PMIEF/PMI Chapter Liaison, arrived at Clarissan Missionary Sisters School in rural Lunsar City, Sierra Leone, West Africa, he asked fellow volunteer Cristina Caballero for an outlet to charge his mobile phone. He quickly learned that there was no electricity during daylight hours; power produced by a single generator was exclusively for the dark of night.
“My presentation was titled ‘Using Project Management with Limited Resources,” recalls Fernando, “and in this region everything is limited. There are plenty of humans, but they lack skills and raw supplies.” With PMIEF’s Toolkit for Teachers, Fernando instructed staff and sisters about the basics of project management, and gave them copies of Gary Nelson’s book, The Ultimate Treehouse Project, from the Project Kids Adventures series, for their students.
Then a project began to form. The school, serving 3,000 girls, had just one boiler to cook all meals. “There was no concept of a real kitchen,” says Fernando. But that would soon change. Cristina (founder of Pequena Nowina, a nonprofit organization helping females from Sierra Leone develop career skills), asked a Spanish hotel to donate to the school a functional 5-year-old kitchen they were about to discard. “We got a shipping container and moved the entire kitchen to Sierra Leone,” says Fernando. “The sisters are educating the staff in the use of the stovetop and oven. And they have recruited women – some of whom had worked as prostitutes to survive – into a kitchen training program. In Sierra Leone, teaching someone to make bread provides them with both food and a way to make a salary. It changes a life.”
Ten days after Fernando returned home, he suddenly lost his job. “I realized this was nothing compared to the daily problems in Sierra Leone,” he reflects. “I live in a country with healthcare and social services. If I have only a few coins in my pocket, I can buy a slice of bread. The people of Sierra Leone live every day with empty pockets. That makes me cry.”
Fernando feels fortunate to be settled into a new position as COO of an engineering and technology company, and to have had the opportunity to share project management with that far-away school. “There are 7,000 million humans on planet earth; 800 million live in the style I know,” says the number-loving engineer, “and 6,200 million humans live another kind of life. Lucky are we who are born in the right location. We must share our knowledge of project management to make the world a better place for everyone, especially those who aren’t so lucky and are suffering under poverty.”
PMI Nigeria Chapter
The PMI Nigeria Chapter welcomed 10 nonprofit organizations to ScopePedia – an event for “scoping out” problems – none small or commonplace. PMIEF/PMI Chapter Liaison Titilola (Titi) Park from the Nigeria Chapter explains that 17 PMI chapter volunteers gave individual attention to the organizations’ representatives during intensive four-hour workshops.
One of the most pressing problems was presented by Efferent Cares, a group launching a cervical cancer screening program for Nigerian women. “Rural Nigerian women are uneducated about this disease,” says Titi. The World Health Organization reports that 14,000 Nigerian women suffer annually from cervical cancer, the country’s second leading cause of cancer deaths. With help from PMI volunteers, Efferent Cares set a plan to create a strategic document, create awareness and advocacy, develop relationships, and build resource capacity, all while maintaining an operating budget, mining data analytics, utilizing testimonials, and driving funding.
Another organization, Africare, implements community interventions for such issues as HIV/AIDS prevention, maternal/child health, river blindness control, and more. At ScopePedia, representatives defined objectives, including development of a social enterprise model, expanding the donor base, developing new areas of intervention, and increasing advocacy levels.
Organizers of Felabration, an annual festival honoring Nigerian musical icon Fela Kuti, were concerned that “… their leadership team has many strong personalities, each with a different idea of what Felabration should be,” says Titi. “They needed to identify the most valuable and viable projects, and put some structure into portfolio management.”
At the event’s conclusion, Efe Farinre, founder of Linking Hands Foundation, a charitable services provider, called ScopePedia, “a one-day event with life-changing impact.”
Titi says such programs are essential in Nigeria, “… where we have issues with governmental leadership. Nonprofits must undertake a lot of projects; if they don’t the people suffer. Money is not easy to come by here, so every dollar must be maximized. Project management optimizes results from limited resources. I tell others, ‘Project management can address any problem in your life and in your community at its core to give you a better outcome.’”
The PMI Nigeria Chapter emphasizes the need to educate young Nigerians in PM, adds Titi. “Volunteers go to schools and teach about accountability and planning, using PMIEF’s Project Management Skills for Life®. If we plant little seeds of knowledge, they grow into big trees of positive results. It must be nonnegotiable that we keep transferring these skills. Build your community and invest in your community because, ultimately, that is the way to build a better world.”
PMI Portugal Chapter
The PMI Portugal Chapter advocates for learning innovation, while lending support to Portugal’s Ministry of Education educational strategy development. Isabelina Jorge, the chapter’s PMIEF/PMI Chapter Liaison and social responsibility program manager, is enthusiastic about the emerging tutoring approach to teaching, as opposed to the more familiar training approach. With the belief that tutoring encourages learning retention, PMI Portugal created a Practice Guide for Tutors.
In 2017, “Something very exciting happened,” Isabelina details. “We were given an opportunity to align with a Ministry of Education pilot initiative calling for ‘curricula flexibility,’ allowing schools to use 25 percent of teaching time to experiment with new methods of student-centered, collaborative, participative learning. Teachers will not be just content providers and evaluators, but facilitators instead.”
Isabelina says involvement will require PMI volunteers to support teachers in designing projects that promote basics of project management and at the same time teach specific disciplines – math, geography, science, etc. “This is a huge challenge, but the rewards will be great as well,” she adds.
PMI volunteers are not new to educating, thanks to a robust PMI Portugal at Schools program, where PMIEF’s Practice Guide for Teachers, Practice Guide for Tutors, and Project Kids Adventures, translated by volunteers into Portuguese, are utilized. Additionally, they suggest that schools use a single PMIEF learning resource, Projects from the Future, for children of all age groups to establish a basic language for project management. “Using one resource has been effective, and less confusing for schools,” says Isabelina.
Unlike trainers, PMI “tutors” – chapter volunteers - forge lengthy partnerships with schools. “After initial training, volunteers meet weekly with teachers for 2 to 5 years, to support them in their projects,” Isabelina explains, noting 40 active volunteer tutors have supported 20 schools. “Just imagine, these are active professionals who leave their organizations during work days to meet with teachers, then return and resume their work. They are heroes to me.” She is also proud to mention the more than 100 PMI volunteers who provide other support and training activities besides tutoring.
The chapter’s 300 members have now reached over 3,000 students, trained and tutored more than 300 teachers and have supported more than 100 school projects over the last 5 years. “Education is fundamental for a better future and teachers are the project managers and facilitators of that learning. PMI volunteers recognize that we are on a stone path requiring vision, energy and resilience,” says Isabelina, then paraphrasing a quote from Nemo Nox, “Stones in our path? We will collect them all, for one day we will build a castle.”
PMI Israel Chapter
When Israel’s Minister of Education asked the PMI Israel Chapter to contribute an educational booth pertaining to industrial engineering and management for the country’s first science and technology fair for ninth graders from all around the country, the chapter enthusiastically accepted the invitation – and the challenge.
The booth had to be educational, intriguing to teenagers, and interactive,” details Michal Azar, Vice President of Education for the PMI Israel Chapter. “We would be surrounded by booths from 40 organizations representing energy, light, medical technology, and other fields whose attractions would include robots, airplane simulators, virtual reality glasses, and much more. We knew we had to be innovative to attract teens to hear our message. It was a big challenge.”
After brain-storming, the ideal format for the booth emerged: an escape room. Partnering with a leading escape room designer, the PMI volunteers created a storyline and a set of problems to be solved within that first (and now a subsequent) escape room.
“It was a hit!” exclaims Michal. “Kids lined up to register; some waited 50 minutes. During that time, volunteers registered them in groups of 4-8 people. They were instructed to name their group and select a project manager who would divide the work, listen to the team, ensure respect and cooperation within the team, and make sure everyone is involved.”
Inside the room, called Flight of the Future, was an airport where a fictional company employee was trying to escape with stolen company secrets. Each group entering the room had to solve a series of problems to identify the correct terminal and recover the thief’s boarding pass and stolen secrets, within the space of 10 minutes.”
“During four days we interacted with 30,000 ninth graders while sharing, mentoring and communicating key concepts of leadership and project management,” says Michal. “The Israeli PMI Chapter booth had that ‘wow’ effect – it was totally outside the box. Our  volunteers had a great time as they saw teens fulfill the tasks and emerge from the room with big smiles on their faces, clapping hands, Snapchatting themselves in front of the booth. Even during break times, we kept working because people from other booths and the Ministry of Education wanted to experience the room. How could we say no?” asks Michal, laughing.
She notes that success was measured by long lines happy participants, and “volunteers who were recharged with energy and felt they did something meaningful. And on the last day I overheard people from the Ministry of Education saying principals of various schools had checked the option to open industrial engineering departments in their schools. That was truly exciting.”
These expansive, innovative, and caring efforts to share the knowledge and fruits of project management underscore how chapters in PMI’s EMEA region maintain an ongoing commitment to the spirit of social good.