Project Management

Giving Back Through Hours for Impact

8 Dec 2022
Joe Cahill
The numbers are in, and the PMI community is well on its way to setting a record of achievement in our Hours for Impact program. Over the years, the program has mobilized hundreds of PMI members, volunteers and employees to advance the U.N. 17 Sustainable Development Goals and build a more equal, just and sustainable world. What’s motivating our community around the globe? Joe Cahill, our representative on the UN Global Compact USA Board, offers his thoughts.

Woman in light blue tshirt standing in front of group of volunteers all wearing light blue tshirts

We celebrated Thanksgiving not long ago in the U.S., and I’ve been thinking a lot about the word itself: “Thanksgiving.” It is, of course, a melding of two words – thanks and giving. And that’s how we usually think about the holiday: as a time for “giving thanks.” 

But I’m wondering today if there’s not a deeper linkage between the words “thanks” and “giving.” Perhaps the word “Thanks-giving” is telling us that the best way to express gratitude – to give thanks – is through the act of giving to others. It would be similar to the idea of “giving back.” 

What’s triggered these reflections (and no, I’m not suggesting we change the name “Thanksgiving Day” to “Give Back Day”) is the latest news about PMI’s Hours for Impact program – our annual initiative to mobilize our community of members, volunteers and employees to drive change and create a better world.  

Based on the latest tally, we’ve now received more than 180,000 hours of pledged service from our community members worldwide. That means we’ve exceeded our goal of 125,000 hours of service this year – which is itself up from last year’s goal of 100,000 hours.  

Often – and observing broadly here – there is an intention-action, or say-do gap, however, on major global social impact commitments from organizations, leaders, individuals, etc. This creates a divergence between what we say we’d like to do and what we actually do.  

Project managers, by design, are all about putting action behind promises. I like to think that’s what motivated our community to deliver such impressive results. We are, after all, a growing community and an essential resource. We are the professionals people rely upon to get work done – the ones with the skillset to turn ideas into reality, whether that’s building a bridge, designing a piece of software or launching a new product.  

It is this very skillset that positions us uniquely to give back to our communities and to drive positive social change. And the Hours for Impact program helps channel this drive.  

As many of you know, Hours for Impact supports the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the U.N.’s blueprint for achieving a more sustainable future for people worldwide. That’s consistent with PMI’s mission, as a for-purpose organization, to make a difference in the world and to advocate for People, Planet and Purpose.  

The 17 SDGs were developed by the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, in 2015. PMI has been a member of the UNGC since 2019, and, full disclosure, I serve on the Global Compact Network USA board as an NGO member.  

The 17 SDGs encompass a wide range of goals – from ending poverty to ensuring gender equality and quality education. They call for clean water and sanitation, better management of our oceans and lands and the building of sustainable cities and communities. PMI’s enthusiastic and committed global community is working towards many of these goals and, in some cases, towards more than one goal at a time.  

PMI’s Kerala, India Chapter, for example, is supporting an organic farming project in support of SDG #15 – Life on Land. Chapter volunteers have racked up more than 14,000 hours of service supporting 300 students with seeds, webinars and mentoring on cultivation techniques and the use of technology. They’ve even conducted two project management workshops for students – the first large scale initiative to introduce local students to project management skills. 

In Africa, the Co-Shamba Project is connecting youth from different regions of the continent on a digital platform to address issues like climate change, COVID-19 recovery and resiliency efforts. Volunteers have pledge 500 hours to help bridge employment gaps among Africa’s most marginalized and vulnerable youth by combining old traditions like village groups and indigenous farming practices with new opportunities in technology and climate science. The project addresses multiple SDGs, including No Poverty (SDG #1), Reduced Inequality (SDG #10) and Climate Action (SDG #13). 

Not all projects are equally large, of course. And that’s the beauty of Hours for Impact. The goals are scalable and are applicable to project leaders anywhere in the world, allowing everyone to participate.  

So, in addition to the large-scale projects mentioned above, we have PMI staff in the U.S. working with Boy Scouts to collect food for the needy during the holiday season (75 hours against SDG #2 Zero Hunger and SDG #3 Good Health and Well-Being). Staff members are also building community rain gardens to ease drainage issues and cultivate native plants and pollinators (15 hours against SDG #6 Clean Water and Sanitation, #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities and #15 Life on Land). 

All these actions – large and small – help move us toward a better tomorrow. And with every action, I believe we’re inspiring others to give back and elevate their impact on society. 

This year’s Hours for Impact shows us the power of the PMI community to drive change and make an impact on the world. In a way, we’re closing the say-do gap: we’re not just giving thanks in words, we’re giving thanks through actions.  

On behalf of the PMI leadership team, I thank all our members, volunteers and employees for everything you’ve done to support the Hours for Impact program. For myself, I couldn’t be more grateful to be part of this amazing “thanks-and-giving” community.  

Joe Cahill Joe Cahill

As Chief Customer Officer (CCO), Joe Cahill is responsible for all PMI’s Global Customer Group. He oversees the Global Customer Engagement Team, the Global Customer Experience Team and PMI’s eight geographic regions. Joe previously held the positions of COO, Interim CEO and SVP of Finance and Administration in his time with PMI.