It’s easy to get caught up in project management in terms of your organization or the sector you work in. Project management is such a broad term and sometimes you might forget just how widely it is used, and often for admirable causes. Chris Hines MBE, who many of you will remember for his keynote speech at the APMG-Showcase in June, runs an organization called A Grain of Sand. A Grain of Sand is about delivering and driving positive change.

As a global community, Chris believes we’ve got some massive challenges facing us like poverty, environmental issues and how we feed the world. There are 6 billion of us living and working on this planet, and Chris says that without project management, these challenges aren’t going to be properly addressed.


Awarded an MBE for services to the environment in 2008, Chris has lead a number of environmental projects, from the well-known Eden Project in Cornwall to Surfers Against Sewage which has helped improve bathing water quality standards across the UK.

At the APMG-Showcase, we asked Chris why project management and stakeholder support is so important  to his campaigns, and how he negotiates to get effective results.

Why is good project management so important?

My name is Chris Hines, I run a company called a Grain of Sand which is about delivering and driving positive change and it’s great to be here at the APMG event because project management and programme management are essential to making the world tick. We’ve got some massive challenges facing us from poverty, through to water, how we feed the planet to how six billion of us work and live on this little tiny planet. Without project management, that just isn’t going to happen. That’s why I’m here, to share some of the lessons I’ve learned through running organizations such as Surfers Against Sewage and then working at the Eden Project as Sustainability Director. The lessons I’ve learned from there are also applicable here but also I’m looking forward to learning other stuff that, from being here and listening to some of the speakers and people at the Birds of a Feather, I’m going to learn as well.

How do you negotiate effectively?

Knowing the aim is essential and for us as a campaign organization we knew our aim but we also had to understand what the aim of the water company was, what the aims and the pressures applied to water companies and all the other stakeholders are. When you do that, it’s not that you compromise, it’s that you understand and you maybe have to negotiate the way through. So maybe you can’t get everything you want in the timescale you want but maybe you get it by being reasonable and engaging. I think that was true with some water companies and some of the companies showed a greater level of intelligence and understanding that we weren’t going to go away and they needed to work with us. Both Welsh and Wessex Water clearly showed that and that was through good management, good leadership and understanding where they wanted to go as well. Also, through our negotiations with people like the European Commission and over at the Houses of Parliament, understanding what the political pressures were and helping to change those in a way. If there were no votes in sewage and cleaning up the sea then they weren’t going to do anything. In a way, what we did was to drive up the votes at which point the politicians felt they were able to do something and they were able to help us achieve what we wanted to achieve.

Is it important to get senior stakeholders on side?

I think it’s important to get a senior stakeholder but again if you think about how you’re going to negotiate with a senior stakeholder you’ve got to press the buttons that make them come onside, think about what their pressures are and what the aims are that they need to be delivering. I can remember once when we organized this event called Africa Calling, part of the Live Aid conferences, I had booked three helicopters and I needed to book another and the finance director freaked at me. He said, “Who is this one for?!” and I said Angelina Jolie. He went, “OK, that’s fine.” So sometimes you need to think what it is and why you’re doing it, so that little negotiation went very well. I could have got in deep water but it was fine.