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


February 26, 2020

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

By Cecília Morales

Digital Marketing Analyst PM4NGOs

By Cristiano Moura

National Coordinator of Social Impact Management ChildFund Brazi

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, who you are, 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 poverty and 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 focusing on the treatment of 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 think of a job just for financial reasons. I was seeking to study something that would add purpose and help people.

The choice of geography was due to the ability of geographical science to analyse the past - present context and even predict some future situations. Another factor that struck me about geography is that it is one of the few sciences that analyses all the separate parts and makes connections to understand issues as a whole. In other words: to solve certain problems, we need to study the culture, the climate, the vegetation, the relationships that occur to arrive at a conclusion. This Kantian influence in geography inspired me to think of solutions for anyone, especially those living in extreme poverty, poverty and other vulnerabilities. Thus, I specialize in inclusive education and project management, because with management techniques, public understanding plus all geographical elements, I can think of and 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 took the methodology to my organisation 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 in a objective and extremely effective way, without inventing and using complex tools that end up disrupting. 

Q: Describe PMD Pro to someone who knows nothing about it?

A success factor 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, that have a high capacity to inspire people, but in contrast they have very low technical capacity, that is, they are not instrumentalized and they do not know which instruments to suggest. The leader does not need to know all the techniques and methods, he/she does not need to be the management teacher, what he/she needs is minimally to know about the main tools that enable better project management. In this sense, PMD-Pro provides a summary of key management tools that are easy to apply, easy to understand, and do not require any 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 not different - a social project has a life cycle that has been split into six parts. Each of these six parts deals with different phases of a project. The first phase of the life cycle, besides the conceptual part, some tools are presented that should and can be used to build the project. Later phases have the same characteristics from the point of view of tools and concepts, however they each hold different objectives, such as the phase of implementing project actions. 

Therefore, 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 people and / or community actors who are linked to the issues. When talking about stakeholders they are present throughout the life of a project, so for the success of a project, it is also important to manage those involved at the beginning, middle, and end of the project. And as a support in the life management of a project, support tools are available to make the management efficient and contribute to the proposed results.

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

From my point of view, it is a risk that social projects use methodologies that were not created for the social purpose. PMD Pro is very important because it understands the purpose of NGOs, from the first page to the last, the guide shows concern about solving complex problems such as social inequality, violence reduction, disease to name a few amongst many others which this sector seeks to solve.

I often tell people that we need to give the right medicine to the right problem, that is, it is no use having the goodwill, we have to know which methodology, which tool to use, and at what time  this 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 concern with making it easy for anyone in any location. 

In our first class in Brazil Juan Manuel (Humentum Regional Director, Latin America)  described it in a way that stuck with me PMD Pro was made thinking of people in the community, one who has no resources to develop anything, that has no computer and software to systematize (their) work…You can make a Problem Tree by drawing with a stick on the dirt floor of a community.

This thought went through my mind for many years, until I had the idea of developing something that would empower not only the people in a community but also for other people facing other difficulties. So, I thought to empower people by using touch beyond speech.

Q: Keeping in mind that other people may not be familiar with your project, tell us a bit more about it?

Historically, project management is a process restricted to people with high educational background and purchasing power. For example, some project certifications require a financial investment that only a Brazilian middle class person will have access to. That is, a restrictive "science" was created that is valued because few can have access and with instruments that only a few can "operate". This is nonetheless a social exclusion and is contrary to what is thought of project management. Thus, PMD goes the other way, allowing access to all people, not only for accessible tools and concepts but also for the low investment to be knowledge. Seeing PMD as an inclusive methodology has inspired me to make it accessible not only to humble people, but also to those who have other vulnerabilities such as visually impaired people. 

This choice was influenced by my postgraduate experience and people I knew. Knowing that they are high-powered people, I thought of adapting the main tools so that they came out of the computer and could be touched. That is, building solutions using smell and especially contact using touch allows people who have a sense of beginning, middle, end, organization, order, sequence and others.

Q: What inspired you to do this? 

An important point is that I have never worked with this audience and have never been involved in any specific action with people with difficulty seeing. Despite all the admiration I have for everything they have overcome, I have never had the opportunity to be closer. The only thing that somehow connected me is a postgraduate degree in education that addressed the inclusion of people. One day I was on vacation at my house and I called my wife to talk… I told her that I wanted to do something different from the standard, leaving a little of the traditional model I was used to. In other words: I wanted to give PMD Pro training but not for the same audience and the same way. I thought of several possibilities… several… but when I thought about teaching project management hands-on, it gave me a chill in the stomach because it was innovative, but I thought that this way I would be contributing to the democratization of the PMD Pro and showing that we can all learn and develop good projects.

Q: What challenges did you face?

There were several challenges. Although my postgraduate degree engaged in the inclusion field, I didn't work with people with visual impairments on a daily basis, so I had no idea what could happen. The first time I was going to test 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 said to myself, “My God, where was my head” - Yes! I thought about giving up. But a PMD Pro never escapes the challenges!

Another challenge was to ensure that throughout the workshop I was not simply talking and exposing concepts, and reflections. I needed to verbalise instructions and guide them so that they put their fingers on the tools.  You can see this in the image below, I was talking about the Logic Frame, specifically in the indicator column, so I had to warn them that they should put their fingers in the second column of the logic frame that was made with popsicle sticks and cardboard. 


Q: What did you learn from this project, and what would you say to someone considering studying PMD Pro? 

I learned that PMD Pro is for everyone, and that learning has no limits. I would recommend PMD because it enables great results in a accessible way.

Q: What are the benefits of this method?

According to William Glasser's theory we learn more when:

  • 10% when we read;
  • 20% when we hear;
  • 30% when we observe;
  • 50% when we see and hear;
  • 70% when we argue with others;
  • 80% when we do;
  • 95% when we teach others.

In the case of this project, by the end of the training the participants can be considered to have 80%, because they could learn and do at the same time, as well as listen and discuss, thus mitigating their visual weaknesses.

Q: Finally, What’s next for you?

Hmmm… that’s a secret! Haha! 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 in over 200 projects over 4 years… and it has been very promising, finally, I hope it is another tool that will support us in achieving good results.

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