Published here March 2020


Musings Index

PMI History and Climate Change

Max Wideman's comment

As a long-time member of the Project Management Institute, I like to keep in touch with the news and views of its members. To this end, many of my acquaintances keep me posted by copying me on their email exchanges. One in particular, by my friend David Pells, caught my attention because it describes our efforts two decades ago to try and generate interest in doing something to protect the environment. Here, David is responding to a call by PMI member Adesh Jain to form a new institution called World PM Forum based in Delhi, India. Here are David's observations for the record.[1]

A little bit of PMI history about Climate Change
by David Pells — extracted from an email March 22, 2019[2]

At the PMI'90 Symposium in Calgary, Canada, the keynote speaker was Dr. Frank King, former head of the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics. Dr. King presented a dramatic picture of the environmental damages being caused by humans around the globe and delivered a passionate challenge to the PM audience to do something about it. He called for a "Project Earth" to change the course of destruction.

A group of us met almost immediately to take up the challenge. Over the next two years, we launched the "Project Earth" SIG, PMI's first. It had some momentum and attracted some corporate support; we conducted project earth workshops at PMI'92 in Pittsburg, PMI'93 in San Diego, INTERNET'94 in Oslo and PMI'94 in Vancouver. Unfortunately, it was considered too "green" by some senior PMI leaders, it morphed into the EnviroSIG, and died a few years later.

At the same time, the lack of international cooperation between and among PM professional organizations was recognized. At PMI'94 in Vancouver, attendees from about 15 countries met to discuss this topic, signing a manifesto to increase cooperation. In 1995 I joined the PMI Board as VP Public Relations. One of my first major initiatives was the first "Global PM Forum" at PMI'95 in New Orleans. PM leaders from 20 or 25 countries participated, briefing us all on PM activities and status in various countries, discussing international standards and similar topics, and planning a series of subsequent meeting.

Over the next ten years, Global PM Forums were held at PMI and IPMA conferences. Gilles was the leader from the IPMA side, while I continued for PMI until 2000. The last GPMF in fact was hosted by Adesh in New Delhi in 2005. (see attached photo) Approximately 25 countries were again represented, but by then PMI and IPMA seemed to be competing head-to-head again, going their own ways.

PMI and IPMA began to grow rapidly. PMI grew almost exponentially around the popularity of their standards and PMP certification. IPMA grew by absorbing a new national member association. For PMI, the PMI Education Foundation provided the main vehicle for promoting project management in education, disaster recovery and social programs. The Foundation has grown, attracted significant funding and is very popular among PMI chapters and members. IPMA re-launched its research conferences, recently with a focus on PM for economic and social change.

But then, Global Warming and Climate Change accelerated.

Most importantly in late 2017 APM published a Climate Change Report that called on the PM profession to lead, to use its expertise to help solve some of the global problems now so obviously resulting from global warming. I attach that report[3] because Peter Morris was the principal author and I want to both congratulate and applaud his efforts, which he now indicates has not gained enough traction. (And in case some of you might not have seen this particular report).

Partially based on Peter's report, I added a major section to the PM World Library that I labeled "Solving Global Problems" as a place for capturing resources that might advance the application of modern PM to solving some problems. We have five categories of topics: Global Initiatives, Emergency Response and Disaster Recovery, Human and Social Problems (hunger, housing, education, diseases and health, etc.), environmental problems (ocean pollution, freshwater, air, land, atmospheric), and animal protection of various kinds.

Many of these problems are exacerbated by climate change, nearly all man-made and all deserving attention. Solutions will be via programs and projects. By definition, the PM profession can and should help. To see what we are trying to do, go to

I have followed the World Economic Forum for years and note that in addition to major meetings, now held in various parts of the world each year, the WEF[4] sponsors programs, research and informative reports about global trends, problems and possible solutions. Why not a World PM Forum to do the same? Or at least cooperate with other similar organizations to channel our expertise and knowledge to support global solutions?

This is ambitious! It will require sponsorships and the support and involvement of PM organizations, corporations and non-profits. But I'm too old to wait longer. Why not tap the Fellows of all major PM associations for support? Let's tap academic leaders and universities for credibility and reports. Let's tap students and younger professionals for energy and ideas. If 25% of the world's GDP is generated by projects, let's tap the project world for support. And I agree with Russ; we need to tap technology so we don't all have to travel the world to make this happen or to participate.[5]

The PM World Journal and PM World Library can be made available to promote and support a World PM Forum.

David Pells

1. Published with permission.
2. Observations written by David Pells on March 22, 2019, in an email responding to Adesh Jain's proposal to launch a World PM Forum based in Delhi, India. The purpose of such a forum would be to provide a vehicle to discuss global affairs and actions such as those associated with the climate, but at a higher level than normally associated with project management conferences.
3. The particular report, one of many, may be accessed here:
4. Note that "WEF" here refers to the " World Economic Forum", and not to the Wideman Education Foundation.
5. A comment made by Russ Archibald, FPMI.
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