Engineering for Change Gains Momentum

Initiative launches new evaluation program, attracts growing interest

12 October 2012

The Engineering for Change (E4C) initiative has had a busy year. The global community of organizations and individuals promotes sustainable and accessible tech-based solutions to problems facing poor and underserved communities.

E4C recently launched a program to ensure that the many products aimed at such groups will meet their needs.

More sponsors have come aboard with financial support for the initiative, and its membership rolls have been growing steadily. More than 11 000 individuals around the world have registered as members on the E4C website, taking advantage of the open access informational resources as well as the opportunity to participate in solving specific challenges via online workspaces.

E4C has built a significant social media presence, with more than 10 000 “likes” on Facebook, 6000 Twitter followers, and 14 000 video views on YouTube.

“E4C offers a unique opportunity for members of the global development community to engage with each other,” says Chris Baker-Brian, IEEE member and executive partner and director of research and technology at BBOXX, in Cheshire, England.

Baker-Brian is part of the E4C steering committee that is working to develop a first-of-its-kind evaluation methodology for answers via E4C’s Appropriate Solutions Evaluation Program (ASEP). Many humanitarian focused products are available in the marketplace, but not all are fit for service, he says. That’s the reason E4C has engaged leaders to design a review process that will ensure products perform as promised and are culturally appropriate, locally sustainable, and affordable. No such evaluation process exists.

“Our focus is on evaluating both new and established products, methods, and technologies for solving some of the world’s greatest challenges, such as developing cheap, efficient, and sustainable solar cookers, latrines, and water pumps,” Baker-Brian says. “I hope E4C becomes the CNET of technology solutions for the developing world, providing anyone with access to open-source knowledge.”

New association sponsors have come on board in recent months, including ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) and ASABE (the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers). E4C now boasts 11 network sponsors.

E4C offers a wealth of information on its website and through a newsletter that highlights news, events, and job opportunities. E4C News includes articles about ongoing projects and innovations in the sector, as well as interviews with leaders who are developing solutions on the ground. Popular articles from the website include "Ten Solar Cookers That Work at Night," "DIY Village Tool Set," and "Ten Best Sites for Free Online Education."

The monthly E4C Webinar Series presents live, interactive webcasts with experts in the growing “engineering for global development” sector to discuss their work and interact with members. Recent webinars included “Engineering World Health: Building Technical Capacity in Resource-Poor Hospitals” and “RevoLootionary: Designing Sexy Toilets and Markets to Deliver Them.”

For IEEE members who would like to get involved but are not sure where to start, introductory webinars are presented regularly. The next one is scheduled for 18 October at 11 a.m. EDT. The most recent one attracted IEEE members from 50 countries.

Finding money to fund great projects or even getting them a bit of publicity is always a challenge. To help with that, E4C publishes compendiums of timely opportunities such as the Sustainable Design Contests and Awards List, which includes funding sources.

E4C is slated to be at the IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference from 21 to 24 October at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel. If you’re in the Seattle area, you can meet staff members there and learn how to get involved.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

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