Project Management Institute Make Reality Challenge 2021

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1 October 2021 – 17 March 2022

Disruption for Social Impact

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The health impact of COVID-19 cannot be overstated—but it’s everything else the pandemic laid bare that’s forcing everyone to re-evaluate their lives. Lives and livelihoods were lost, and systemic inequalities in income, wealth, employment, and access to healthcare for marginalized groups were exacerbated. The United Nations predicted the pandemic (and the accompanying economic slowdown, job losses, and lack of social protection) would push 96 million people into extreme poverty this year, with women bearing the largest brunt, particularly in South Asia.

For youth and adults alike, mass digitalization such as online schooling and work has reduced the sense of belonging, and increased anxiety, depression, and disengagement. And in the business world, it created a divide between digital knowledge workers who could shelter in place and those in at-risk jobs or who lacked access to high-speed internet—almost all of whom were poor.

Climate Change

Perhaps the biggest existential threat humanity has ever faced, the climate crisis can be mitigated only with ambitious, innovative initiatives—and the project talent to make those plans reality.

Research from an array of organizations all points in the same direction: there will be more climate change— and it will happen faster than many models predicted. Humanity is at a crossroads. If we do nothing, much of Earth could become uninhabitable. Driving home this point are the fires in Western United States and the flooding that recently occurred in Germany.

Climate change is increasing the gap between rich and poor, reducing affordable access to water, healthy food, and safe housing.  It is also compounding social inequalities, with disadvantaged populations suffering disproportionately from its effects. As an example, disadvantaged populations may not have air conditioning to keep them safe during potentially deadly hot summer months or may live-in low-lying areas that will be inundated by rising ocean levels.  Left unchecked, climate change will continue to exacerbate inequalities between the poor and the rich, dividing communities and nations.

Smart Infrastructure

To help achieve a higher standard of living, infrastructure providers, manufacturers, and national, regional, and local governments need to invest in infrastructure. Smart infrastructure is needed as the Internet of Things continues to expand. On the regional and local level, city energy grids, waterworks, and disaster warning systems can be managed through smart technology. On a more personal level, cars, appliances, even many aspects of home and building functionality and security can also use smart technology.


The economies of promising emerging and developing countries have been growing from some time now. To help achieve a higher standard of living, these countries need to invest in education to generate revenue and reduce poverty, said Farhad Abdollahyan, head of the project management office, UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Niamey, Niger.

In 2020, millennials and Gen Zers staked their claim as most of the global workforce, with more than one-third living in just two countries: India and China. These young workers face high unemployment and rising poverty levels. And often, organizations don’t understand the needs, aspirations, and ways of working that these young people have. A new group of young leaders need to be trained and cultivated.

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