Tag: Diaconia

Thank you 2019

2019 was generous with me with connections, relationships and a great deal of learning.

The words of the year are for me: adaptability and generosity. They apply both to my personal and professional lives.

The heroes of the year for me are those who reletlessly work for others – the team of Diaconia Moldova remains for me an example I truly admire. Spending a day with such a team can be a humbling experience for those of us who work in development management.

The recipe of the year’s success was a healthy mixture of ironic and slightly sarcastic mood. It worked like magic on some occasions. Those who experienced it, know that “nice” is fine and “authentic” is so much more 😉

There were many instances of success we celebrated as teams and as individuals. My highlight of the year was to deliver a 15 minute speech on anti-corruption and public sector integrity in Prague on a stage on wheels. I prayed silently that I will not have to show my skateboarding skills.

For all the project teams team this year, yet again, sharing a good laughter worked like an emotional super-glue. We will remember these moments and let go of frustration, sadness, disappointment and all of that which does not let us grow together and as individuals.

I also practiced a lot of “let go” this year (in a variety of ways :)). It made room for new and generous harvests.

I took pride in blossoming “trees” thousands of kilometers away from “seeds” my colleagues and I planted years ago. I am grateful to all those who took time to write me about those projects. We also learned from the “seeds” which did not make it to the surface.

Yet again, this year kept reminding me that context matters in development management. Ignoring it has the effect of ignoring an Italian mother-in-law (no stereotyping, it is meant as a compliment).

This year, I met numerous new professionals who touched my heart with their authenticity and generosity in sharing their knowledge. Thanks to them, I discovered my new shades of rainbow colours. So, 2020, get ready for a splash of colours, with adaptability and generosity.

„Fail-Safe Management: Five Rules to Avoid Project Failure” by Jody Zall Kusek and Marelize Goergens Prestidge

New to the job, I had a silent prayer in my head: “Please don’t let me fail”. This fear of failure was almost paralyzing. I only conquered it when I learned to learn from failures. It took a number of failures to get there. Then I learned that I am not alone thanks to a number of books, among which a World Bank publication I would like to share with you.

Fail safe mngt

The book gives insights into five rules the authors advise to follow for a fail-safe project management:

Rule 1. Make it about how.

Rule 2. Keep your champions close and your critics closer.

Rule 3. Informal networks matter – use them.

Rule 4. Unclog the pipes.

Rule 5. Build the ship as it sails.

This book is both a good acquisition and an inspiration. It might not be eye-opening on all accounts (as it depends on your level and extent of project management experience) but it still contains a number of important lessons to take away for mindful managers. Here are a couple of mine:

A. In many cases failure is „baked into” the project almost from the start by managers and team members who simply fail to be mindful of the details and who focus on avoiding the obvious problem spots that any project will face as it goes along.

B. „Build the ship as it sails” suggests to start on a smaller scale and pilot whenever possible. Keep learning.

C. The definition of success will vary, depending on who assesses it. Making a difference to people on the ground is a mark for projects making progress in development.

D. Regardless of whether the stakeholder is a champion or a critic, these relationships must be managed to avoid project failure (the book includes a tool to manage stakeholders relations).


From time to time failures occur or we let them happen. For a variety of reasons. I once drafted the project’s work plan based on an overly estimated partner’s commitment. An unexpected management change in the partner organisation demanded a serious rethinking of the implementation approach through resource- consuming  alliance building and bottom-up approaches. I have on my desk a brochure with the nice pic of the previous management of the partner to remind me not to let my overly optimistic outlook to take over pragmatism in project planning.

Failures are the learner’s best friends in projects and in time I learned to identify and address them. Reasons for failures in projects are multiple and the approaches to deal with them differ. They therefore deserve a separate post, to which I’ll return. In the meantime, a fail-safe and learning rich project management!

Project management for charity events

I was once at a meeting with a royalty whose lifestyle is charity-driven. Her name is Marina Sturdza. Apart from curiosity about her past linked to a communist era, the audience got interested in her charity endeavours. A friend of mine asked her about how she approaches, organises and delivers charity events. All these are competencies of a project manager.  She offered the following very common-sense advice, which very much resonate with any project’s life cycle:

  •  watch your expenses to avoid spending more than collecting;
  • communicate well the reason the event is organized for;
  • follow-up and openly report after the event to build trust.

I also noted, from personal experience, that charity demands peculiarities from project managers.

During holidays, with the generosity spirit in the air, we see charity events popping up on our facebook pages, through email advertisements or friends’ invitations. I’ve made it a tradition, over the last years to organise something in support of the cause I adhere to. And to put my project management skills to work. These come down to resource identification, organisation of meetings, networking and communication.

Couple of mere examples: organise a group of friends of mine to craft Christmas decorations that were sold at a fair. Together with other nine groups we collected funds enough to support daily needs of 10 child-single mother couples for a year. A pretty good output. The next year I organised at my place a 5 o’clock tea with the objective of spreading the word about the cause of single mothers and collect funds. After the event, my guests made donations to the cause. It was an undisclosed amount. Purposefully. I wanted to preserve the intimacy of the moment, especially for those disappointed by charities in the past, an important sensitivity to bear in mind. Another year, I joined with friends of mine a charity event for about one hundred people gathered to craft hand-made toys to be sold at a fair to support a shelter for orphan single mothers. A friend of mine, to whom I am profoundly grateful for accompanying me at this event, called it ” finally, a fakes-free event, with humanity, from people to people”. An awesome outcome, i would say.

That dear friend of mine gave a perfect definition to a charity event that stays faithful to its objective. To stay true to my evaluation culture, i noted down couple of lessons I’ve collected on my charity events organization journey.
These events are about people you want to support. An individual, a group, a community. These are what we call “beneficiaries” in projects. Those organising and taking part in the event are mere means to an end (me included). Lavish charity dinners or galas are not my thing for this reason mainly.

charity events
I also got to learn something important in terms of sponsors and charity projects partners. It might happen that those with means might not necessarily be willing to be the means to an end referred to above. They might want to steal the spot light and let you down at the last moment after offers generously made but not honoured. There might be reasons for that I am not here to judge. It’s important to remember that the cause you support dearly might not instil the same enthusiasm in others. And it’s ok. We all support some causes, in one way or other.
Often the humblest person are more likely to respond to a call for contribution. It might be as simple as making a phone call that paper is accumulating in the office for recycling, knowing that these will allow napkins and toilet paper to be bought for those who cannot afford even these “benefits of civilization”. Or taking part in crafting Christmas decorations to be sold for a good cause.

Picture taken at Diaconia Christmas Charity Fair ‘From Mothers to Mothers”2013 /”De la mame pentru mame” Campaign. You can learn more about the organisation and the campaign here http://diaconia.md/?l=en