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Responsible Project Management: Activism By The Project Profession

Thirty years ago, the important role of project managers in influencing the outcomes of many challenges facing humanity was highlighted (Laszlo, 1991). Climate change, ecological crisis and social injustice were well recognised, and the transition from national to global economies and interconnected societies was underway. By 2015, the need for global action on society’s challenges could be seen in the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The project profession was slow to respond. There have been a range of ‘green’ and ethical initiatives, but these have fallen short of equipping project managers with the mindset and skills “to coevolve the enterprise together with its wider socioeconomic environment” (ibid.). From within the profession there have been calls for action to address the challenges facing (e.g. Morris 2017). Responsible Project Management is one response to such calls.

This paper traces the origins of the Responsible Project Management movement (RPM) and the initiatives that have set in train a new way of thinking about projects and project management. RPM is distinguished from earlier initiatives by focussing on the individual project professional. RPM brings together and engages academics, practitioners, and students as the project managers of tomorrow, together in social learning.

Finally, 2021 as International Year of Responsible Project Management is discussed. The paper concludes by setting out a road map for the future and highlighting the contributions educators can make to delivering projects for the shared benefit of all.

Karen Thompson
Bournemouth University Business School
United Kingdom

Nigel Williams
University of Portsmouth
United Kingdom


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