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Q&A with Cristiano Moura: Innovating project management to empower the visually impaired

February 17, 2020

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Cristiano Moura

National Coordinator of Social Impact Management
ChildFund Brazi


Cecília Morales

Digital Marketing Analyst

In this insightful Q&A, Cecília Morales chats to Cristiano Moura, National Coordinator of Social Impact Management at ChildFund Brazil. Cristiano opens up about his academic background, motivations and what Project Management for Development Professionals (PMD Pro) means to him. He shares his truly inspiring PMD Pro journey from being in the first classroom in Brazil to facilitating courses, to developing his project to train and empower the visually impaired in project management.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself Cristiano – where are you from, and what you do? 

I was born in Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais in one of the best countries to live in: Brazil! I work at ChildFund Brazil as National Coordinator of Social Impact Management. ChildFund Brazil is an international cooperation agency whose main objective is to contribute to the social development of children, adolescents, young people and their families living in extreme poverty. I have two sons, Manu and Samuel and I’m married to Nathália. These three people are instrumental in supporting me and my work, allowing it to be filled with passion and love.

Q: What is your academic background, and what inspired you to choose this subject?

My background is rooted in my Master in Geography, which focused on spatial information. Additionally, I am also a specialist in education and hold an MBA in Project Management. When I first started thinking about my academic career, I wanted to choose something that could contribute to people’s lives; I didn’t consider a job just for financial reasons. I sought to study something that would add purpose and help people.

The choice of geography was due to the ability of geographical science to analyze the past and present contexts, and even predicting some future situations. Another factor that struck me about geography is that it is one of the few sciences that analyzes all the separate parts and makes connections to understand issues as a whole. In other words – to solve specific problems, we need to study the culture, climate, vegetation, and relationships that occur to arrive at a conclusion. This Kantian influence in geography inspired me to think of solutions for everyone, especially those living in extreme poverty, and with other vulnerabilities. I specialize in inclusive education and project management, because through management techniques, public understanding, and geographical knowledge, I can propose solutions to improve people’s quality of life.

Q: How did you hear about PMD Pro and what interested you about it?

I feel honoured and privileged to have participated in the first PMD Pro classroom in Brazil, in the city of Recife. As my organization was part of the working group that supported the creation of PMD Pro, we were invited to participate in the first class in Brazil.

The first meeting took place in 2011, after which we brought the methodology to my organization and expanded it to our partner network. Subsequently, I started teaching the course online. Since 2011, I have been facilitating in-person, online courses and developing materials for project management courses. What interested me most was the idea of doing project management objectively and beneficially, without inventing and using sophisticated tools that end up disrupting (the process).

Q: How would you describe PMD Pro to someone who knows nothing about it?

A factor of success in any life endeavour requires a balance between art and technique. Many times, we see leaders who know how to lead like no one else, who have a high capacity to inspire people. Still, in contrast, they have very low technical ability – they are not instrumentalized, and they do not know which instruments to suggest. A leader does not need to know every technique and method, they do not need to be the management teacher. What they do need is to know about the main tools that enable better project management. In this sense, PMD Pro provides a summary of essential management tools that are easy to apply and understand, and they do not require highly specialized academic knowledge.

I would explain PMD Pro as a high-quality methodology presented in a simple way, composed of one life cycle with well-structured phases and 23 tested tools that are easy to apply and understand. Every cycle has a beginning, middle and end. Social projects are no different – they have a life cycle that is split into six parts. Each of these six parts deals with various phases of a project. In the first phase of the life cycle – besides the conceptual part – tools are presented that should, and can be used, to build the project. Later stages have the same characteristics; however, they each hold different objectives, such as the phase of implementing project actions.

The six-part life cycle is also supported by six cross-cutting areas that underlie the entire life cycle. For example, project stakeholder management, or rather all the related people and / or community actors. Stakeholders are present throughout the life of a project, and it is important to manage those involved at the beginning, middle, and end of the project to ensure its success. To support the management of a project, tools are available to ensure the process is efficient and that it contributes to the proposed results.

Q: Why do you think PMD Pro is important for NGOs?

From my point of view, it is a risk when social projects do not use methodologies for their intended purpose. PMD Pro is vital because it understands NGOs. From the first page to the last, the guide focuses on solving complex problems such as social inequality, violence reduction, disease, among many others which this sector seeks to address.

I often tell people that we need to provide the right medicine for the right problem. It is no use just having goodwill; we have to know which methodology and tool to use, and to know when it is fundamental for social change.

Q: Tell us about your project to train the visually impaired in project management?

I think the best thing about PMD Pro is its focus on making it easy for anyone, in any location. Historically, project management was a process restricted to people with high educational background and purchasing power. For example, some project certifications require a financial investment that only a middle-class Brazilian person will have access to. This is an example of social exclusion and is contrary to what is thought of project management.

Thus, PMD goes the other way, allowing access to all people in terms of tools and concepts. Seeing PMD as an inclusive methodology has inspired me to make it available to those who have other vulnerabilities, such as visually impaired people.

This choice was influenced by my postgraduate experience and people I knew. I thought of adapting the main tools so that they came out of a computer and could be touched. That is, building solutions via smell and contact. Using touch enables people to have a sense of beginning, middle, end, organization, order, sequence.

Q: What inspired you to do this? 

I had never worked with visually impaired people before. The only thing that connected me was a postgraduate degree in education that addressed inclusivity. One day I was on vacation at my house and I told my wife that I wanted to do something different, moving away from the traditional model I was used to. In other words – I wanted to provide PMD Pro training but not for the same audience or in the same way. I thought of several possibilities, but when I thought about teaching project management hands-on.. I thought that through this I could contribute to the democratization of PMD Pro, showing that we can all learn and develop good projects.

Q: What challenges did you face?

There were several challenges. I hadn’t worked with people with visual impairments daily, so I had no idea what could happen. The first time I tested the technique with this audience, I took my wife and a colleague to support me as I was very insecure, partly because I didn’t know any participants in person. Before starting the workshop, I thought about giving up. But a PMD Pro never escapes the challenges!

Another challenge was to ensure that I verbalized the instructions and guided the participants throughout the workshop so that they put their fingers on the tools as you can see in the image to the right. I was talking about the Logic Frame here, specifically the indicator column. I had to let them know that they should put their fingers in the second column, which was made with popsicle sticks and cardboard.

Q: What did you learn from this project? 

I learned that PMD Pro is for everyone, and that learning has no limits.

Q: What’s next for you?

There are several ideas, but right now I’m working on publishing a project management indicator that is grounded in the PMD approach. It is in the final stages of testing. In short, I have applied it to over 200 projects over four years and it has been very promising. I hope it is another tool that will help us achieve good results.

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