Last year we asked our community to complete a survey to help us gain a better understanding of the motivations, skills and expertise of those supporting our movement. In turn, we are using the responses to help shape the future of the organisation and ultimately the sector as a whole.
From those who responded, their motivations were overwhelmingly similar, with a general concern for social responsibility within the engineering profession. There was also a significant and growing concern for the climate crisis and the role engineers play in that space; “[I am] now more motivated by climate change issues and the responsibilities this places on engineers.” Another consistent theme was the consideration of future generations; “[I want to] promote global sustainable development within the student learning experience.”
At Engineers Without Borders UK we promote globally responsible engineering practice throughout the organisation, from our educational programmes to how we engage our industry partners. To us, a globally responsible engineer is an engineer who understands and acts upon their responsibility to use engineering as a catalyst for sustainable human development. When asked if you thought you were globally responsible, 75% agreed to strongly agreed with only 11% disagreeing to strongly disagreeing.
When asked how you define globally responsible engineering we received some insightful responses;
“Globally responsible engineering means developing engineering solutions and ideas that sustainably balances the risks to the community socially, economically and environmentally.”
“Helping to achieve Kate Raworth’s [economic] doughnut model, ensuring everyone achieves a basic acceptable minimum standard of living, water, shelter, food etc without exceeding the planetary boundaries of the planet, co2, soil acidification, ozone depletion deforestation etc.”
A large percentage of the definitions were centred around the environmental challenges we face and considering the context within which you are building. The UNs Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were also mentioned throughout, placing engineering within the larger context of the climate crisis and its social impact.
“We stay true to the principles of the SDGs and UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and use our abilities as engineers to help realise the first and uphold the second. We deliver projects for the public good that are sustainable both in terms of materials and in terms of future-proof design […] and realise that a person’s country or circumstances should not deny them basic human rights that require engineering design to deliver.”
To support these ambitions to continue or become a globally responsible engineer and contribute to achieving industry wide standards such as the SDGs, we will be considering our role in up skilling individuals who work within engineering organisations. In addition to our ongoing role of influencing the engineering and educational sectors more broadly.
To achieve this, we asked how you would like to engage with our movement and found that 42% want to attend more in-person events. This has been built into our future plans, and is beginning with an evening celebration event on April 3 2020. This networking event is open to our whole community providing an opportunity to for our members to present on any contributions to the globally responsible space they have made. Book your spot or find out how you could showcase your work here.
Our community recognises the importance of shaping future globally responsible engineers, with many respondents showing a keen interest in becoming reviewers for the Engineering for People Design Challenge. This year, we are thrilled to be working in partnership with Engineers Without Borders South Africa and USA, attracting 8,500 students globally. To effectively support these students, we are looking for industry professionals to review student submissions, and provide their insight and assessment, assisting us in finding our finalists. Find out more about the challenge and volunteer opportunity to become a reviewer here.
Another popular way our community wants to engage is through Chapter led activities. This year, we have launched the Designathon; an intensive design challenge, which encourages students to consider the importance of user centred design and globally responsible engineering in multidisciplinary teams. To encourage student development, we are looking for volunteers to judge the student’s designs, providing industry insight and constructive feedback. Apply here to find out more about available opportunities and support or judge a Chapter Designathon.
Not only have we provided opportunities to inspire engineering students, but we realise that we need to heighten the visibility of STEM from primary level education. This was reflected in our survey with a large percentage of respondents saying they wanted to influence the next generation of engineers. As we have in previous years, we are currently looking for volunteers to support our outreach sessions at The Big Bang Fair. The workshops for 7-14 year olds will inspire the next generation of globally responsible engineers by teaching them about clean energy. To volunteer for this opportunity, taking place in Birmingham on 13-14 March 2020, be sure to fill in this form.
Throughout the survey, the majority of respondents expressed the importance of making the engineering sector more globally responsible. To facilitate this, we have and will keep providing opportunities to contribute to larger discussions that are shaping the industry regarding sustainability and ethics. For example, at the end of last year we invited our members to contribute to the Engineering Ethics Vision 2028 consultation, which we then collated and fed back to represent our community’s voice and shape the vision.
This is just one of the opportunities afforded to our membership, alongside being priority for event invitations, contributing to industry wide papers and the ability to shape the governance of our organisation. If you haven’t already, be sure to find out more about our membership!
As always we are extremely grateful for those who contributed to this survey and recognise that these are just a handful of ways in which we are addressing the responses from our community, and continue use the feedback to shape our strategy and programmes for the year ahead.