Back in 2007, a group of NGO’s met in Baltimore. They realised that their projects were over or under spent and ineffective. “Because we are positive people we saw this as an opportunity,” said John Cropper, Global Programme Co-ordinator for Oxfam’s Raising Her Voice programme. They wanted to do something “by the sector for the sector” and while they always had certification in mind, they didn’t have the resources to do it. Step forward APMG-International.
The Project Management in Development Professional qualification was launched at the end of last month, and you may have seen my video from launch day. There’s just so much to cover about this initiative that I couldn’t fit it all in the video.
Richard Pharro from APMG-International kicked off the launch event by saying he was humbled to have worked on the project, which was run with pm4ngos. For an investment of less than £50k, after an hour on the phone, and without the team meeting face to face before they made the commitment to go ahead, everyone involved came together to agree on the objectives and to plough on with this initiative.
Why? Because a the working group of 12 NGOs found that between then just a 1% improvement in effectiveness would yield an additional $47m to spend on projects. Pharro said it was difficult to measure a 1% improvement, but you can see from the figures that incrementally the benefits are huge, both in financial terms and in terms of quality of delivery.
So what is it?
PMD Pro will eventually be a suite of competency-based project management qualifications aimed at project managers working for NGO’s. At the moment it is just Level 1. This is a knowledge-based exam giving people the terminology required to start them on the route of professional project management development. The whole PMD Pro programme is a mix of NGO context – what’s important to know if you are working in the field of international development – and industry – the PM stuff we know and love. The proposal for the rest of the qualification suite looks like this:
- Level 2: made up of a foundation project management qualification e.g. PRINCE2 Foundation or CAPM plus contextualised NGO knowledge – the “how”, such as the logical frameworks in use by NGOs
- Level 3: a further project managament qualification e.g. PRINCE2 Practitioner or PMP plus some more context from the NGO environment
- The future: Ideally something about managing programmes, but that seems a long way off yet and there are no plans in the pipeline.
The training for the pilot schemes was delivered in the classroom, but there are also online materials and to take level one reading the training guide is the bare minimum required.
The Level 1 exam is taken online and the certificate is sent by email. What the organisers have found is that the internet is the best way to deliver the exam as it makes it most accessible in areas where posting paperwork isn’t the easiest. They said that there are generally good internet connections wherever they are working and that the people using those connections are a lot more patient that we are in the UK. They are also looking into the ability to download the exam on to a USB stick, you take it, and then upload your answers, which would be suitable for areas where the internet connection is flaky.
“Are the masses beating their way to our door?” said Cropper. “Well, they sort of are.” PMD Pro was piloted in March in South Africa with PSI, Aidsportal, HIVOS and WITS, and in Zambia with World Vision. World Vision have approached the team with a view to getting their 3000 South African staff trained.
“I’ve been working in charity since 1992,” he added,” and this is the most exciting thing to happen.” I would have to add that from the project management angle, it’s also a really exciting initiative – I look forward to the launch of Level 2 and hearing more about how it is improving the delivery capability of NGO project managers.
There’s more information on the pm4ngos website.