We caught up with the winning team based across Portugal, the UK and the USA; André, Bethany, Erika and Gavin, to reflect on their experience. 

As a divergent concept, we were keen to understand what first motivated the team to participate; André described himself as ‘environmentally illiterate’, and was keen to understand what was happening in engineering and wider society to make positive progress on securing the future of our planet. Bethany, Board member of WISE Young Professionals, who is passionate about the importance of inclusivity on sustainable outcomes, saw this as the perfect opportunity to deepen her understanding of her ongoing interests. Gavin and Erika, both working at Jacobs, were nominated for the challenge and were intrigued by the opportunity. 

After their initial meeting, the team started by considering ‘global development issues’ that impact people and the planet. One concept that arose during this process was what the team deemed as ‘the dark side’ of sustainable technology. The team highlighted that not only is this a complex global issue, but that engineers often feel they are only responsible for a small step of the design process and they cannot offer wider solutions. To assess the impact of this siloed practice, the team stepped back and asked critical questions such as why is this problem challenging to solve? Who can be brought to the table? And how can we pivot to instead embed sustainability into every element of the supply chain?

As a result of this exploration, the team proposed a simple to use tool that presents challenging questions to encourage consideration of the sustainable and ethical impacts of design decisions, in order to identify opportunities to engage and improve across the supply chain. 

Although all of the participants in this team were engineers, they have expertise across a range of disciplines. Bethany spoke of the value that a diversity of experience brought to the process when scoping their solutions, highlighting how André’s experience as a software engineer allowed the team to test their product on a live platform, whereas Bethany and Gavin brought focus to the product and the sustainability of the supply chain, and Erika highlighted the importance of considering the stakeholders.

When reflecting on their learnings, Erika spoke about the advantages of stepping away from the fixed problems she gets presented with on a day to day basis and the experience of looking at the sector holistically;

“I learned a lot about bringing together a big picture idea […] Often clients come to us and they say I have this very specific thing that’s broken and needs fixing […] It was nice to step outside of that design process and think about holistic solutions and also think about how to craft a solution for a problem that’s not so specific, that was a learning exercise for me.”

When considering the implementation of skills developed, André spoke of how he will be ensuring the lifecycle of the products he is developing will be considered and accounted for holistically. Bethany will be looking to take forward the thinking of cross disciplinary design into her day to day practice. Erika touched on how this challenge brought focus to the role of shareholders in dictating the direction of engineers’ commitment to more responsible design and practice. Gavin found that hearing insights of other members of the team broadened his awareness of the various ways you can approach a problem. 

“I think embracing that uncomfortableness and allowing that exploration phase really, you know, led to the value that we found.”- Erika 

When asked if the team had any advice for future participants, they highlighted the need to be open minded and stay in the problem space for a significant amount of time, to allow them to reach an effective solution. Erika reflected on the importance of getting comfortable with this kind of exploration and not knowing the solution on day one, which she admitted as a solution-driven engineer was challenging. 

You can explore all the final solutions from Reshaping Engineering on CrowdSolve