Jan 2017
Meilenstein – Der Projektmanagement-Blog

"Making the world a better place through project management"

Because of our authors and readers we know how much project managers are "on fire" for their profession. One of them is Deanna Landers who founded the not-for-profit organization (NPO) "Project Managers Without Borders" (PMWB) in 2014. We met her at the PM Summit in Munich and asked her about the goals of her initiative, current projects and how a project manager can get involved.


PMWB runs under the slogan "Making the World a Better Place through Project Management". With that slogan the founder Deanna Landers wants to express that Project Managers have skills that are applicable to everything that involves change. The organization tries to use these skills and the associated experience to improve the human condition and help other NPOs and NGOs to pursue their missions more efficiently and effectively. By introducing this NPO we would like to show our readers a possibility to use project management outside their job.

From three participants to a global network

From the initial three participants PMWB grew up to over 130 volunteers in the past two years residing from 27 different countries, for example from USA, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, UK, Ghana, Hong Kong, India and South Africa.

This big network represents the only global project management not-for-profit organization on a volunteer basis, dedicated to working with other not-for-profit/non-government organizations. PMWB believes that many humanitarian organizations are filled with passionate people who have the core skills needed to improve their target communities (like providing sanitation or medical assistance), but lack the project management skills to put it all together in a controlled and efficient manner.

PMWB attempts to provide sustainability by engaging their client organizations and communities in projects, helping them understand project management principles, and enabling them to sustain the achievements of PMWB, as well as manage their own projects going forward.

Engagement in Ghana and Ecuador

We asked Deanna Landers: How do concrete actions of PMWB look like?

Deanna Landers:"Our project teams are responsible for leading, coaching and executing projects with the help of our Partner organizations. To do so, we developed a flexible methodology that is adaptable and applicable to every type of project. For example, we are currently running two projects in Africa: 

The first is the "Accra Ghana Flooding Initiative" which is to address the problem of recurring floods in Ghana’s capital city. (further information: http://pmwbi.org/site/index.php/projects/africa). We have already held our first workshop in Ghana and we are planning future workshops in the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium.

We are also seeking advice and knowledge from other regions around the world where similar problems existed and were solved appropriately. The difficulty of this project is that we are working in a government environment with dozens of stakeholders. The local initiatives that started up before PMWB was involved all failed mostly because this complex stakeholder environment was not understood properly.

The second project is an investigation of a project management exchange program, where we are looking at the feasibility of setting up an exchange program. The concept is sending project managers to other countries in exchange for knowledge and participation in humanitarian missions and thus, ensuring this knowledge gets captured and returned to the originating country. This project can be compared to student exchange programs."

Various challenges for volunteers

We also wanted to know: Which types of work do volunteers of PMWB do in detail?

Deanna Landers:"Volunteers who work in the described projects do the following types of work, for example:

  • Provide local expertise in order to source the right stakeholders and describe their influence on the future steps in our initiative
  • Organize and facilitate brainstorming sessions that deliver detailed steps which can go directly in a project plan
  • Use specialist knowledge on building and/or engineering aspects which are at the core of the problems to be solved
  • Discuss the issues and help the team to identify options to address them
  • Break down each situation into manageable segments

We have another important project in Ecuador, where we are partnering with "Engineers without Borders" to bring irrigation water to small communities in the Andes mountains. Our project managers support the engineers in various ways, including facilitating meetings, sharing scheduling and organizational tools, coordinating travel plans, training on project management principles, and helping to develop succession planning."

Picture 1: The community starts for a day of work in the irrigation water project in Ecuador.

Picture 1: The community starts for a day of work in the irrigation water project in Ecuador.
© Deanna Landers

How to get involved

We also asked her how a single German project manager or company can get involved in PMWB?

Deanna Landers:"There are three ways to contribute to PMWB:

  1. Project managers or company employees are able to volunteer to support an internal (PMWB) or external (PMWB client) project. Our current opportunities are available here: http://pmwbi.org/site/index.php/get-involved/join-a-project-team
  2. Identify an NPO/NGO that could need project management support and become a new partner of our organization. We have an Ideal Client Profile and Client Selection Criteria that can be used to support this effort. We also have Client Relations Managers that can take over the relationship after identification if that is what is desired. To get in contact with someone from that team, please email us at: info@pmwb.org
  3. Donate to the cause. PMWB operates solely on volunteer resources which means that donations are directly applied to helping our partners deliver projects."

PMWB – useful or unnecessary?

In our opinion, PMWB seems a good opportunity to use project management skills for common good. What do you think of the organization? Do you think it is crucial, useful or unnecessary?

Maybe you already had some experience with PMWB or participated in another NPO? We look forward to your comments and stories.

Picture 2:Part of the team at an event in September 2015. Deanna Landers is the fifth from left

Picture 2:Part of the team at an event in September 2015. Deanna Landers is the fifth from left.
© Deanna Landers

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