Project Skills for All


Life is a Project Series

By Neil Robinson

London, UK


Why? The niggle – intrinsic motivation and making a difference.

Managing Global Projects. For some, this vocation conjures images of business lounges, luxurious hotels, exotic destinations and well-organised project operations all orchestrated by an immaculately composed Project Manager, with just a laptop and wi-fi connection from the shade of a coconut palm. For most of us, reality “in the trenches” couldn’t be more different, as we spend our waking moments engaged in a never-ending series of races against time, scope, cost and quality constraints trying to cajole thinly-stretched team members to achieve exceptional targets promised to expectant and often incensed stakeholders in culturally and geographically diverse regions of the world.

Occasionally, during moments of recuperation, our thoughts might turn to the question of “Why?” We may dimly recall those inspiring case studies glimpsed in the pages of project management publications, outlining the intrinsically-motivated pursuits of fellow Project Management practitioners, brimming with the motivational joy of Maslow’s self-actualisation as they share their skills and expertise with incredibly receptive, respectful and appreciative stakeholders across the globe. “One day…” we tell ourselves as we smack down our coffee, snatch the latest Issues Log, pick ourselves up from the Data Centre floor and return to the fray.

A chance conversation. The seed is sown.

In March of 2015, attending the PMI EMEA Congress in London, UK, a chance conversation ensued with an interesting US gentleman by the name of Jim Snyder.

Having recently returned from a sabbatical (parental health issues) in Australia, I’d taken the opportunity to get involved in a few community projects such as teaching English to migrants and promoting the concept of volunteering within the City of London. The UK Government had invested in a substantial national literacy and language initiative aimed at supporting the skills capability of “at-risk” community groups. The programme was titled Skills for Life, which sparked an excited response in the eyes of Jim Snyder who ushered me aside and thrust a booklet in my hands – Project Management for Social Good.

Jim spoke about the concept of Skills for Life in a project management context and the initiatives of the PMI Education Foundation who were developing simple, intuitive methods for teaching project based “life skills” to school children, particularly in developing countries.

So if we can successfully teach Project Management “lite” to children, teachers and charity workers…why not migrants, refugees and other “at-risk” community groups whose capabilities might benefit significantly from such skills? The seed was sown.

The concept – Life is a Project – project skills for all

The Life is a Project (LIAP) concept was defined in broad terms as a voluntary initiative:

  1. To develop a volunteer-led, community-based program of project skills training for the benefit of minority community groups most at risk of social exclusion.
  2. To target the same disadvantaged audiences as the UK National ESOL Skills for Life initiatives.
  3. To deliver practical, relevant and digestible project skills for life training.
  4. To inspire and open doors for others.


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Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles by Neil Robinson, author of the award winning paper “Life is a Project: Enabling Life Skills in Cross-Cultural Transitions”, first presented at the 6th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, April 2017. The paper was selected by the Project Management Institute (PMI®) for the 2017 James R. Snyder International Student Paper of the Year Award for the EMEA Region. The paper and this article are inspired by the outcomes of the Life is a Project (LIAP) education initiative launched by the author to teach project management life skills to a group of ESL (English as a Second Language) adults in London.

About the Author

Neil C. Robinson

London, United Kingdom


Neil C. Robinson
is an experienced Business and Technology Project Manager, consultant and trainer with global experience delivering complex projects, transformation programmes, and business solutions in diverse geographic locations. His experience as a practitioner includes Senior Programme/Project Management, IT Services, and Operational roles in the private and public sectors. His domain experience includes IT Management and Project Delivery roles in the Aviation, Technology, Oil & Energy, Health, Government, Insurance, and Education sectors. His regional Project Management experience includes on-ground delivery in 20+ countries across the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Australasia, the Americas and Asia.

Neil is PMP and PRINCE2 accredited and is currently undertaking research and academic studies in a Masters (Project Management) programme at Salford Business School. He has a special interest in social project management and initiated the “Life is a Project” concept in London, teaching project management life skills to ‘at-risk’ community groups. His further research interests include the roles of motivation and cultural intelligence in international project success.

Neil can be contacted at mailto:[email protected]and welcomes global collaboration from practitioners, academics and students in his field of interest.