Introducing the Project DPro Practitioner

Since its launch in 2009, over 30,000 development and relief professionals have completed the Project DPro Foundation certification.  They work in over 100 countries and change the lives of the millions  communities they serve. 

Now, there is an option for anyone who has a Project DPro certification and is interested in continuing their learning journey. This year, PM4NGOs launched a follow-up certification, the Project DPro Practitioner.  This level-2 qualification helps learners apply and tailor project management skills and tools to a variety of project environments and scenarios.

Pyramid Learning will conduct the first on-line facilitated Project DPro Course in April, 2021.  The 4-week course is designed to be completed in three parts:

Part 1: Learners complete a number of short courses related to 6 Project Management competency areas.   Participants are then asked to demonstrate how their learning will help them develop as project managers.

Part 2: Learners complete a series of informal learning activities, identifying and reading a selection articles on advanced project management topics.

Part 3: Learners have the opportunity to “give back” to the NGO project management community by providing examples or case studies from you’re their own practice.

The course is designed to prepare learners to meet the requirements of the Project DPro Practitioner certification managed by PM4NGOs. The certification requirements do not require taking an exam, instead learners have the option of submitting a portfolio of  work related to the applying and tailoring project management tools and skills. 

Learn more about the Project DPro Practitioner certification process here.

Our 1 Year Anniversary

Pyramid Learning is 1 year old this week – yay – great news – at least we think so but then again, we would! This anniversary has prompted us to think a little bit about what we have been doing over the last year and why. And this seems to come together around a subject that we get asked about a lot – which is why did choose the name Pyramid Learning?

We actually thought a lot about the name – and the more we thought about it – the more the idea and concept of a pyramid appealed to us. You cannot build a pyramid without a strong base. It would fall down. In the same way, if learning is restricted to a few, no matter how good it is, it is difficult to action and it is hard for any change to be sustainable. We believe very strongly in getting learning to the people who need it most – field staff, partners, implementers on the ground. We really want to find ways to help as many people access appropriate actionable learning as possible. In many ways, development is all about the base of the pyramid. How do we develop the skills of the people at the base – those who were who are sustaining the weight of the development sector?

This focus on the base is why we are so proud of our accomplishments over our inaugural last 12 months- 1600 learners trained! We are also proud of the award we received from the Arist Foundation for our work making learning available on WhatsApp based Covid 19 learning program – distributed globally in 10 languages. The award was nice but seeing photos of a public health promoter in a refugee camp in Uganda using our learning on a phone, reading the messages and using a megaphone to instruct people at a water point and give them key messages was even better.

Our choice of the pyramid also represents the three principles that serve as foundations to our work . We want learning to be appropriate, accessible and actionable – these are the sides of our pyramid. Learning which does not meet these criteria is unlikely to be helpful. The reason we use the word helpful is precisely because we want our learning to help people like you, who are doing good, do it even better.

We want learners to be able to take what we do and use it in their own work quickly and easily to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Feedback from learners has driven our product development. We now have courses on project management, program management, MEAL and proposal writing. And, we have made these courses widely accessible by localising them French, Spanish and Portuguese. Next stop – Arabic – and then – who knows?

Making learning appropriate is all about contextualisation. At Pyramid Learning we have over 50 years of experience in development, advocacy, human rights and humanitarian projects. Additionally, we implement our work in geographical contexts that span the world. It is incredibly rewarding that we already collaborate with organisations in 9 countries across Africa, the Americas and South East Asia. Seeing healthcare workers in Somalia learning on our courses and contributing to the learning of other participants is deeply rewarding.

Maybe an interesting reflection on the pyramid is how essential the base is. In our context, we can also see that without a strong base, you won’t have scale in your learning. An interesting development is how we are now collaborating with several organisations to develop learning to help them rollout learning to scale globally but also how to use virtual learning technologies to reach their own base. Helping Catholic Relief Services and Cáritas in Mexico to turn a face-to-face training of trainers into a virtual training of trainers has been fantastic. Working with others to reach right down to the grassroots, parish level and seeing how learners participate, flourish and grow has been a privilege.

Let’s all work together in 2021 to carry on helping as many people as possible to learn and change lives for the better.

Go? Or, No Go?


Welcome to the Project DPro Scenario-based Learning Program. Each scenario presents a new challenge to the UNITAS team- tough decisions, unexpected issues, stakeholder conflicts, and more. Join a community of Project DPro learners as they advise the UNITAS team on a recommended course of action.

Scenario Overview- Go? Or, No Go?

In this scenario, Maria – the UNITAS project manager – meets with her boss, Fabian. Together, they need to decide UNITAS’ role in the new Delta River IDP Project.

  • View the scenario
  • Contribute to the discussion thread by posting a comment or replying to another post.

Discussion Questions

1. Do you think UNITAS should submit a proposal to lead all Nutrition and Health Care activities in the Delta River IDP Project?

2.Help Maria and Fabian find a way to diffuse the tension between their opposing views.

3. Have you experienced similar circumstances or know of any? Share your stories with us and how they were dealt with.

Post your thoughts to the discussion thread below.

Coronavirus 101: “Learning where there is no internet”

If you are anything like us, you have spent a lot of time scouring the web following the latest news on COVID-19, the new strain of the Coronavirus.  But what if you didn’t have access to the web? Or, a computer at home? Or, a newspaper.

Count yourself lucky! Because almost 4 billion people lack access to the internet, most (but not all) living in developing countries.  They, like us, are vulnerable to COVID-19, but lack access to information about the disease.  What is it? How is it spread?  How do I protect myself against the virus?  How do I protect others in my community?

That’s why we developed a Coronavirus course that is delivered through text messaging, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.  Using the Arist platform, the free, 9-day course is designed to address the needs of learners in the developing world.

Registering to take the course is easy. Open WhatsApp and send the code for the language you prefer to the number below.

ENGLISH – Text 1001 to +1 415-915-7741
SPANISH – Envía 1011 al +1 415-915-7741
FRENCH – Textez 1021 au +1415-915-7741
SWAHILI – Text 1041 to +1 415-915-7741
KINYARWANDA – Text 1051 to +1 415-915-7741
BANGLA – Text 1061 to +1 415-915-7741
HINDI – Text 1071 to +1 415-915-7741
HAUSA – 1091

أرسل 1031 إلى +1 415-915-7741

While internet connectivity lags in developing world, penetration rates for mobile subscriptions exceed 98 percent.  Even in the least-developed nations, the International Telecommunications Union estimates penetration is at 70.4 percent and rising.

You can learn more about the course (and sign up to participate in the course via text message) by visiting https://pyramid.arist.co/  We would like to enthusiastically acknowledge and effusively thank Translators Without Borders for their work translating content and Arist for this incredible learning platform.

Do Our Projects Have Permission to Fail?

At a recent conference, Robert Jenkins, an assistant administrator at USAID, was quoted saying, “There are a few things maybe that we don’t do very well. One of them is admitting something isn’t working, and two, acting and moving at the speed of relevance.”  

Jenkins’ quote reminded me of a recent conversation I had with course participants at a recent PMD Pro workshop. They were talking about how valuable it was to have opportunities to practice with the project management tools.  One person, in particular, said he especially appreciated the workshop’s learning games, because they gave him ‘permission to fail’. 

Note – readers who have attended workshops I facilitate, know that I like using games in training. Participants make bridges out of straws, build spaghetti towers, make paper aeroplanes, design pyramids etc. Here are a couple of pictures from recent events. We have all kinds of fun playing games &, of course, they are all linked to different learning objectives.

learning games at a PMD Pro workshop

One of the reasons learning games are effective in training is because they provide an opportunity to experiment, learn, and then try again.   It doesn’t matter if your drinking straw bridge collapses. There are no real consequences – so I suppose, failure IS an option.

Which led me to ask, why don’t we have a safe space to fail in our development and humanitarian relief projects?  

My efforts to answer that question led me to a wealth of articles and blog posts on the topic of learning through experimentation (and occasionally through failure). Most of these articles are written from the perspective of businesses in the private sector. For example, one article in the Harvard Business Review was entitled Permission to Fail and explored the importance of  experimentation (and potentially failure) when managing risk.

So it seems that there is a developing awareness in the private sector that permission to fail is important – but for various reasons, we are not very good at doing it in the development and humanitarian relief sector.

As one article in Bright Magazine points out, “But for all of the sector’s eagerness to share their success stories, there is a taboo F-word: failure. This is not by accident. Not only does failure hurt, admitting to it can have serious ramifications for NGOs because much of their funding depends on success”.

As I reflect on my workshop participant who was looking for opportunities to experiment and learn from mistakes, I asked myself, “How does s/he get permission to fail in real life projects?” I don’t think I have yet come across an NGO that did not claim to be a learning organisation & yet, is this even possible, if people do not feel they have permission to fail?

 If we wait for our organisations to adopt a ‘permission to fail’ agenda, we will, I fear, grow old(er) waiting. Are there things we can do at a Project/Programme Manager level? I would love some ideas about what you have done or would like to do to create project cultures, where people feel able to talk about problems and failures.

Please don’t be shy – you have permission to fail!

P.S. In my exploration of learning from failure, I also found this website: https://www.admittingfailure.org/. It is based on the following belief “Failure happens. This is a community and a resource to encourage new levels of transparency, collaboration and innovation across the for-purpose sector”. Have fun reading!


We’re excited and ready!  For almost two years, we have been working with the PM4NGOs team preparing for the update – reviewing content, updating learning plans and planning for launch.  As part of our preparations, we will facilitate the first virtual PMD Pro course aligned to the new version of the Guide. The course starts on February 24th and finishes on March 20th.  So this is a chance to learn – using the new new Guide and preparing to take the new exam as soon as it is formally launched.

In some ways, the launch of the PMD Pro Version 2 has us feeling nostalgic.  The team at Pyramid Learning has been involved with the PMD Pro for thirteen years,  In fact, both our principals were at the meeting where the PMD Pro was first pitched.  John Cropper delivered one of the first trainings – in Zambia with World Vision – and since then, PMD Pro has formed a significant part of our professional lives.  

Looking back at the beginning, it has been incredibly rewarding to hear stories of the difference that better project management has made to people’s lives.  Clearly, the most important factor has been dedicated and skilled NGO Project Managers.  Time and again, people have told us that PMD Pro has made their lives easier. It has given them some simple tools and techniques that help them do more with less and sometimes, do it better. 

That’s not to say we didn’t get a few things wrong.  Lots of things could have been better, which makes the new version all the more exciting. The new PMD Pro reflects years of learning and reflection and it also syncs with Program Dpro. We think the new version will be fantastic and, among its many improvements, will make it easier to apply DPro tools and processes in humanitarian/emergency contexts.

So, are you ready for PMD Pro Version?  We can help if you prepare.  Register for the course or let us work with you to plan your new project management capacity building strategy.  Good luck!