During our 2030 Strategy launch webinar, held on Wednesday October 14, 2020, we were delighted to receive some great questions from our event participants, many of which we did not have the time to answer. We have answered many of these here, in this Q&A post.
Q. Well done with the strategy. Have we identified how we are going to implement this strategy? New projects and key initiatives in particular? – D Noble
A. Thank you! We are building on a solid base and will therefore continue the education programs we run in universities and our work in the countries we are in now for the foreseeable future. We are already building new initiatives in the education space to deepen learning for university students with us, and we are offering professional training opportunities for practising engineers. With a renewed focus in this strategy on Engineering however, we will have emerging projects in the pipeline, constantly, in various stages of development. And with an increased focus on technical pro bono and individual volunteer mobilisation, there will be more opportunities for engagement with these projects.
Ten years is a long time and we will have new projects emerge as the world changes and we adapt with it. The purpose of a ten-year strategy is to provide a guiding light to impact while allowing agility.
We have articulated our high-level Theory of Change (ToC) and you will see that in the strategy document. We also have a more detailed version of this, that describes the intention of each step in our ToC. This informs the initiatives that we deliver, and as we test it, it will help us identify new initiatives that would amplify our impact, reach new audiences or communities or partners for greater scale to reach our goals.
This strategy will test our ToC and we will learn as we deliver it. Therefore the ToC, being a theory or a hypothesis, could change as we learn and build an evidence base. We might do more of one thing, less of another to achieve our impact goals (again, you will see these in the strategy).
Q: Hi all, love the video and the discussion thus far! You briefly eluded to this before, but is there any plan to work directly with EWB and pursue a career in humanitarian engineering as part of the 2030 strategy? I am a recent graduate and this would have been my ideal transition into the workforce, and it makes sense to me to really create a positive, prominent humanitarian movement in the engineering sector. – Vikrant Gorasia
A. Thanks Vikrant. There are three elements to consider in answering your question:
- We would hope that all engineers practice the technology development approach and principles that EWB understands are central to delivering successful technical outcomes for all people and for the planet. No matter what your field, sector or who your employee is.
- We know that that is easier in some roles than others. We have training programs and experiential opportunities that will help you build the confidence to act, no matter where you are working. We offer opportunities to practice engineering with us, through mobilisation opportunities on EWB Projects. You can join a remote team developing technical support for one of our engineering projects, your company can support you in delivering support to our projects through our pro bono mechanism or you can spend a year or more with us, working as part of the team on one of our projects in-country. This is some of the best professional development you can have to become a well-rounded engineer no matter where you work and we are now looking at the possibility of a graduate program with some of our industry partners for exactly this reason.
- If you want to practice engineering in the community development or international development sector, you can build your CV to work in this area with us. Our professional training opportunities provide a structured pathway into learning and understanding of the skills and mindset needed to work with the community. You can gain experience through a field professional overseas placement, which is extremely valuable to employers working in this space
Q. As a rep for Victoria Uni, changes in syllabi etc are making it more difficult to fit in humanitarian eng type elective work, although a couple of us are fitting it in via final year design and project work (this is of course on top of the 1st year challenge). Are you finding this is a problem with other unis / eng schools? – Peter Lechte
A. It does vary from university to university. In many, arguably the trend is going in the opposite direction with many of our partners creating more and more opportunities to engage with humanitarian engineering. This is not surprising as many of the skills associated with humanitarian engineering are increasingly being recognised as core to engineering more broadly. Human-centred design, cross-cultural communication, active listening are all skills that employers are calling for as essential in addition to the “hard” technical skills.
A secondary reason is that many universities are realising that engaging in these real-world projects with a social benefit attracts a more diverse cohort. In fact not just more diverse, it simply increases recruitment across the board. These could be good points to raise as questions for Victoria University!
Q. Loving the discussion so far! To all of the panel, how do you see our Regions and University Chapters changing in the next 10 years to better support and align with our broader strategy? Are there any major gaps or transformations that you would like to see in this space? – Moogie
A. Our Chapters are so important to us – they are us! Over the next ten years, we are tracking the depth and breadth of our network as one of our strategic pillars.
University chapters will continue to be organic, responding to their own situations because that’s where innovation and connection is born. We will also be increasing support for events, aligning strategic messaging and communications and providing anything that would be useful for chapters, so you can focus on the fun stuff – outreach and activities.
We know that EWB is a place where engineers with a passion for sustainability and equality find a home. We want to extend this beyond student engineers and early years professionals, through to all engineers who want to be part of something bigger and connect with “their people”. We will foster and grow EWB as a place where like-minded engineers and related others connect to a community and share knowledge, grounded in our shared mission, vision and purpose. Central to this is the regional chapters who sit in the fulcrum of their regional network, relationships and activities.
Q. How do you see the EWB funding mix change in future? e.g. corporate vs govt. project funding vs fundraising? – Michael Ridger
A. EWB has a healthy diversity of funding sources because we have a healthy network. We see funding as an indicator of the health of our network. A funder chooses to invest in EWB because they believe in the impact we are creating and that their investment will produce results. Every one of our funders is on this journey with us.
We are however looking to strategically stabilise the foundation of our funding and that will include some of the following:
- Long term industry partnerships because there are strong synergies with our strategy and that of the sector as it evolves
- Our fee-for-service offerings will continue to develop. For example, professional training programs were oversubscribed before COVID-19 landed this year and we are increasingly being approached for our unique “engineering with community” services, and this can continue and grow
- Regular or monthly donors – no matter how small – are so important to our stability – every dollar counts and even more so when we know we can rely on it month in, month out.
Q. Given COVID-19 has seriously disrupted international travel and I can appreciate the move to regional initiatives, is some of the strategic direction aligned with government/public interest in regional manufacturing and sustainability? – Alastair de Rozario
A. The Australian government is interested in regional manufacturing and sustainability. These are key elements of the government’s ‘Partnerships for Recovery’ strategy launched after the outbreak of COVID-19. EWB Australia’s strategy focuses on the development of new engineering solutions and products that can be manufactured and sustainably used. This is an aspect where EWB strategy is strongly aligned with the government’s priorities. The regional dimension of our engineering work is particularly relevant in the Pacific region where many countries face similar issues – climate change, remoteness, etc. – that require similar solutions. We expect some of our new EWB projects to have a Pacific regional dimension.
Q. Just wondering, what countries would EWB be targeting in the Pacific Island region? – Brett Seriani
A. We want to be open to explore all potential opportunities for engineering projects in the Pacific. We will not target specific countries based on geographic criteria. Rather, we will leverage our partnerships and networks and we will establish new programs and initiatives in those countries where we think we can successfully address the emerging “social engineering needs”.
Q. What kind of outcomes will be key to measuring the effectiveness and impact of the new strategy – re livelihoods, environment, climate and equity? – Hilary Wallace
A. Climate, equality and livelihoods are some of our cross-cutting themes and will use them as a lens in project design to ensure these important considerations are always part of the thinking. Projects will also be targeted to reach a specific environmental and/or social outcome. and so the project framework will track that. All projects frameworks align to the overarching strategic impact framework.
We have a number of outcomes to measure as part of the strategy and you can see the ten-year goals and objectives in the strategy publication.
Underpinning these are a range of indicators which are outlined in our Impact Framework.
We have the strategic indicators (rolling three-year ones) and a set of aggregate indicators (for the overall strategy). Currently, there are approx, 108 three-year strategic indicators. In addition, we have a suite of indicators at program and project level (operational, that can inform us of our effectiveness at an organisational and program level), SDG targets, external frameworks that we will also use and/or adapt.
Q. I am involved with Community Gardens Australia (sustainability ambassador). My main interest is in urban, remote and regional sustainable food systems as a way of helping with health gaps and local business/employment opportunities. Systems integrated with green/food waste and sustainable water use. Keen to collaborate. Living in Perth and a lore man in western Pilbara region of WA. How can I collaborate with EWB as engineering skills are a key component of implementing systems I have already developed? – John McBain
A. This ten-year strategy focuses our doubling down on our work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia, and our engineering program in Australia currently focuses on working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. All of our engineering projects work with communities to help them realise their plans and vision for their community and the land where they are living – we always consider the people and planet in every engineering project.
Our ‘Engineering on Country’ strategy, which outlines our approach and focus for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engineering programs, includes a geographic focus in more remote communities As part of our commitment to reconciliation we also have some local projects with regional and urban Aboriginal communities, including in and around Perth.
We genuinely welcome the interest of others in collaborating with us. There are different types of collaborations that we explore with potential partner organisations. We build our relations based on the added value that we can bring in the work of others and vice versa. When a new organisation approaches us we discuss the programs and the projects we run or want to run, the strengths and the gaps and the ethical values that sustain our work. Please, feel free to contact us at any time to start a conversation.
Thanks to the many participants in the webinar who shared their support for our 2030 strategy direction. We particularly loved this comment from one of EWB’s earliest staff members, Stewart Davies:
“I was the inaugural staff member for Indigenous and international programs many moons ago when EWB was moving from a small group of volunteers to a ‘staffed’ outfit geared around a strategic vision. Really great to listen in on this session and hear the big picture thinking you’re up now. Well done.”
If you missed the webinar and some of the live questions posed by our participants, you can view the recording here.