Project Managers Without Borders (PMWB) is dedicated to educating project management professionals on practices for leveraging their skills and experiences as volunteers with non-profit and non-governmental organizations. With a focus on development projects initiated to improve the communities where they work, PMWB supports other non-profit organizations by matching project managers to their volunteer needs. In the four years of its founding, PMWB has partnered with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and local chapters of Rotary Club International, among other organizations. The work of project managers and their team members has strengthened communications between community leaders and government policymakers through stakeholder engagement. Additionally, their work has helped communities research and implement sustainable solutions to some of their most pressing needs.
PMWB continues to seek ways project managers can support organizations in solving world problems.
What PMWB has been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time is extraordinary. From 2016-17, PMWB—in cooperation with PMI Ghana Chapter--worked with communities in Ghana to tackle lingering floods in the Greater Accra Region Program, which resulted in hundreds of casualties and affected tens of thousands of lives annually. Accra, a coastal region occupying just 1.4 percent of the total land area of Ghana, is the capital city of Ghana and home to approximately 4,000,000 inhabitants. This ambitious program included research, analysis, and workshops, and culminated in a final master work plan delivered to local community leaders.
On the other side of the world, PMWB sought to tackle a completely different problem – too little water in the community. The Ecuador Maligua Pamba Potable Project was a collaboration with EWB to support the small, rural mountainside community of Malingua Pamba in efficiently distributing the limited water they have for farming irrigation. This three-part collaborative program involved designing and implementing a potable water system, improving the irrigation water supply, and creating erosion control and sanitation measures. This was no easy task for a village located 10,000 feet in elevation in the Ecuadorean Andes.
Most recently, PMWB has partnered with Rotary Club of Centennial Colorado on the WaterRico Project. The team is working with the community in Moca, a small town in Puerto Rico that is in need of clean water after the devastation of resources caused by hurricanes in 2017. The WaterRico project involves the development and implementation of a water filtration system that is more economical, easier to build, and more lightweight than currently available systems. All materials for the project are locally sourced from the island and the blueprint to build the system are provided in English and Spanish for dissemination and utilization in the community. This early phase project has been pilot tested, and the team is well on its way to helping the community of Moca access clean water.
A common theme of PMWB-led projects is water. But, why water?
According to PMWB founder Deanna Landers, the organization was not founded with the sole intent to service water projects. However, in so many cases throughout the years, when PMWB seeks areas where they can make an impact, the topic of water often arises. Even when organizations set out to tackle other problems, such as the lack of a health system infrastructure in a community, the problem of water is uncovered as an unmet basic need. For example, Health Horizons International (HHI), a community-driven non-profit operating in the Dominican Republic, began in 2009 as a way to sustainably improve health in partnership with patients and their families in the community. Early in the development of the organization, it became clear that the health of the community could not be improved through medical services alone. Consistent and ready access to clean water was necessary to support critical health interventions. Through trial and error and many self-taught lessons, the leaders of HHI embarked on a water project to extend a water line into their partner community. In reflection, the project management expertise of PMWB volunteers would have helped the leaders to better plan, prepare, and manage the delivery of their water project as well as improve the impact to the community.
Communities all over the globe are suffering from too much water, insufficient water, or poor quality water.
This fact that has led the country leaders of the United Nations to designate equitable access to clean water and sanitation as Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 6. The experiences of HHI and PMWB reiterate the interrelatedness of the 17 global health and economic targets set by the United Nations. Through educating project managers and matching them to development projects aimed at improving global communities, PMWB is contributing—in a small part—to the achievement of the SDGs.
The work done by PMWB water projects volunteers may be a drop in the bucket, but the impact may be life changing.
Romiya Barry is a clinical research professional using the project management framework to improve the way we support patients, their health, and their communities. She is part of the Blog Author team for Project Managers Without Borders and is President and Chair of the Board of Directors for Health Horizons International, a healthcare NGO serving communities in the Dominican Republic. Connect with her on LinkedIN and Twitter.