Yung-Chuan Ko, PMP and the PMI Taipei, Taiwan Chapter
Number of Hours Pledged: 706
SDG Supported: #4 Quality Education
Summary: About 1 in 5 Taiwan residents live in rural areas, mostly on farms or in rugged mountain communities. And though those townships are sparsely populated, many aren’t lacking in entrepreneurial spirit.
Yung-Chuan Ko, PMP, saw this firsthand as a social impact trainer and government official providing grants to young entrepreneurs. His meetings with Taiwan’s rural business owners confirmed that they shared the drive of their urban counterparts. The problem? They lacked the resources available in cities.
“Although the rural entrepreneurs are very enthusiastic about solving local social problems and working closely with local communities, they need management capability to provide workable solutions effectively,” Ko says.
When he joined the PMI Taipei, Taiwan Chapter board of directors in 2021, Ko saw a chance to bring those resources to remote regions. He was aware that many of his colleagues, some of whom he had met through project management book clubs, were eager to make a bigger impact in their communities, too.
The chapter pledged over 700 volunteer hours to the PMI Hours for Impact program to launch ChangeMakers, a business coaching program to benefit rural entrepreneurs and support UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, Quality Education. And the team knew it wanted the training to focus on agile.
“Agile management is about collaboration, where people develop a common goal to solve problems together,” Ko says. “This is not simply a tool but a mindset.”
Project Manager Pairings
The team developed the agile empowerment program with three overarching objectives:
- Establish workable coaching and training modules for rural youth entrepreneurship and social innovation teams.
- Provide opportunities for success in rural startups and on social innovation teams.
- Expand the influence of the PMI Taipei, Taiwan Chapter.
In February 2022, the chapter recruited 15 volunteer coaches. A month later, they brought aboard a similar number of rural startups. The startups, which were all led by entrepreneurs under 40, had between three and 10 employees. And while their organizations aim to solve a wide range of societal issues, none of the teams had any prior experience in agile.
The startup teams completed two agile training sessions before being paired with volunteers for individual coaching.
“There was a huge amount of enthusiasm from the beginning,” Ko says. “Many of the managers had had no exposure to young entrepreneurs in rural areas, so they were eager to find out how their practical experience could be applied to a new situation.”
One common challenge for the rural startups was resource management. To serve their communities and make an impact, many of the teams needed to hire and manage local people—and foster relationships with key stakeholders.
“The entrepreneurs are busy,” Ko says. “When working in a rural community with local leaders, there are a lot of stakeholders to deal with and manage, including people who don’t have a fixed schedule.”
Ko finds that applying an agile methodology, which involves continuous collaboration, can help leaders navigate that complexity. “If people have different ways of working, you have to find ways to compromise. Agile teaches people how to prioritize, talk to others and lead with empathy.”