IPMA International Project Management Association
21 December 2020 / 9:00

Project-based cooperation at global level as a condition for mastering current and future challenges

This year I can proudly look back on 20 years of voluntary commitment serving the German Association for Project Management (GPM) and the International Project Management Association (IPMA). What fills me with joy is the increase in importance that both associations have experienced during this time. In the beginning, both were rather a “nice family organisation” with little influence on the political as well as the societal level. Due to a multiplication of the membership base in Germany, the GPM was suddenly an interlocutor with the government and could exert influence, even if only to a limited extent. IPMA was also able to greatly expand its membership and is now represented in more than seventy countries all over the world.

However, recent years have also shown that it is time to strengthen international cooperation in order to meet the many challenges of our time. For example, while globalisation has brought prosperity to many states and people, not all have been able to benefit from it, and in all too many cases, globalisation is now also seen as a cause of social injustice, environmental damage, violence and migration. The Covid-19 pandemic shows, as if under a magnifying glass, that these problems cannot be solved in the narrow context of national boundaries but can only be overcome through international cooperation. This is equally true for the worsening climate crisis, waves of migration and refugees, and regional conflicts.

Behind acclaimed solutions, such as the recently approved Covid-19 vaccine created by Biontech and Pfizer, there has been intensive collaboration, in this case starting with an exchange of information between scientists on all continents, joint research efforts and critical evaluation of tests and initial vaccination trials, as well as overcoming challenges in the mass production and global distribution of the vaccine. All the hopes of the world’s population rest on a start-up in Germany, founded as recently as 2008, which was passionately expanded by Turkish immigrants who had the right ideas at the crucial moment. This would not have been possible through individual government programmes, even if individual governments like to put it that way, nor through massive funding, but through skilful, results-oriented project work by a diverse group of international partners.

My dream is that this can also be used in the fight against the climate crisis, environmental pollution, poverty and violence. That we don’t waste our energy being AGAINST something, but work FOR something and do it based on projects. We project managers have a special responsibility in this. Not only in the way we realise projects in our professional life, but by putting ourselves at the service of our society and helping to solve problems with the unique competence available to us.

In recent years, with a lot of effort, we have managed to standardise terms, processes, methods and competences of project, programme and project portfolio management and to communicate them to many hundreds of thousands of people worldwide through qualification and certification programmes. Of course, this also helps to implement projects successfully within a country, a sector or a community. However, it enables international collaboration in speaking the same language and facilitates projects by aligning their processes. I am particularly proud of what has been achieved in Germany through the expertise of GPM, where, for example, we were able to make an important contribution to overcoming the refugee crisis in 2015. Or within IPMA, what has been achieved through initiatives like “Coaching For Development”, the Young Crew and the Project Achievement Awards for humanitarian and community development projects.

But now it is time to take the next step. Both GPM and IPMA have the common good in mind in their statutes and vision statements respectively. I would like to see much more commitment from the associations and their members. Readjusting the focus leads to several benefits: the associations become attractive for members by putting themselves at the forefront of a movement for more collaboration, or by supporting existing movements like “Fridays 4 Future” more actively. Governments can have their programmes, often with large budgets, planned and implemented by PM associations and their members, who thus place themselves at the service of society and help to shape social initiatives efficiently and effectively. In addition, the know-how of the associations can be expanded through cross-fertilisation and lessons learned from different project contexts.

Even if it sometimes sounds tempting to focus on one’s own country, organisation or self and retreat behind “walls” – our challenges do not stop at walls. They require cooperation across all borders. Social distancing during the pandemic has clearly shown us the value of personal exchange, cooperation and togetherness. Modern communication and information technologies can also help.
In IPMA, for example, there has never been so much work done via web conferences, virtual workshops, webinars and expert group meetings as in 2020. A societal agenda is needed, helping us to focus on what really matters and helps to shape our future.

In any case, I will personally continue to be actively involved in the future to live up to our responsibility as projectors for the good of society.
This is especially true in the coming year, which is the International Year of Responsible Project Management!

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Author of this post

Dr. Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 35 years in the field of project-related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Automotive, Engineering, and Consultancy, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH, a leading PM Consultancy in Munich/Germany, he supports executives of industrial clients in transforming their companies towards a project-oriented, adaptive and sustainably successful organization. He has published more than 40 books as well as several hundred articles and blog posts in the field of project management. In more than 20 years of voluntary engagement he served the German Project Management Association (GPM) as well as the IPMA in various roles and was granted for his international commitment with the Honorary Fellowship of IPMA and several of its member associations. He received his doctorate in the field of projectification of society and continues to be active in it through his research and lectures.