TEAM RE22-005 Engineers for Everyone E4E
Proposition The aim is to extend EWB’s philosophy by making engineering knowledge and expertise available to excluded communities using a participatory approach and engaging with like-minded organisations.
Demand Advertisements for construction, engineering and IT volunteer posts indicate an unmet demand for technical services from those otherwise unable to access them. Volunteers can also impart knowledge and skills. Reaching potential beneficiaries should be through charities, local authorities, care agencies, community and self-help groups.
Supply A key component in the scheme is the creation and maintenance of a specialist database of volunteers, their capacities and availability. This could also be done in co-operation with other agencies supplying volunteers.
Pre-task planning A participatory approach requires involvement of affected communities in co-design of volunteer activities. This extends to other agencies involved with them. Activities may need to be co-ordinated and integrated with other beneficial activities and programmes.
Risk management It is essential that a) target groups selected have genuine priority, b) services and expertise are not offered beyond volunteer capabilities, c) services and expertise are not offered which could give rise to professional indemnity claims, d) professional standards of health and safety are maintained at all times e) volunteers should be properly prepared for working with vulnerable communities, and f) non-access to existing services is checked to ensure that other skilled workers are not deprived of legitimate paid work.
Activities Engineers can offer a variety of technical knowledge in computing, electrical, mechanical and building. They also bridge the gap in life skills that other academics may miss such as planning, project management and critical thinking. Therefore, volunteers can provide both services and training for excluded communities which may contain those who are more practically than academically inclined.
Learning is not one way It should be part of the mindset of volunteers that their work involves learning as well as teaching or the provision of services. Part of their work therefore is to reflect on that learning alone or with others. Post-activity engagement with beneficiary communities should also be undertaken to elicit their experience. Learning Organisation E4E aims to be both a repository of and conduit for learning. Therefore, complementary activities include the creation and maintenance of a database of lessons learned together with dissemination activities to professional, consultant and educational organisations to improve engineering practice.
Cost It is envisaged this will be a low-cost and largely ICT based scheme although that will also require volunteer administrative staff. Funds will be needed for some training and dissemination activities.
Beneficiaries Apart from direct benefit to excluded groups, volunteer engineers can grasp a much wider understanding of society and its relationship with the professions. Such understanding can be extended to society as a whole as well as overseas.
Sustainability To tackle climate change governments will have to engage with the whole of society in technical changes, retrofit, infrastructure investment and behavioural restrictions. Reaching all parts of society in understanding smaller-scale technical tasks can help to prepare for larger-scale future requirements.