An intensive two week course in humanitarian design in a developing country with a mix of classroom and hands-on learning.
Set in Nepal, participants were immersed in Nepali culture; spending 5 days living with a rural community.
Participants flexed their engineering muscles in exciting and innovative ways while keeping the human aspects of design at the forefront.
In February 2017 three Arup staff members from offices across the globe joined Engineers Without Borders Australia on their Humanitarian Design Summit in Nepal. The Summit compromised of 45 university students, three Arup employees and the EWB facilitation team. The Summit was split into three distinct phases; phase 1 consisted of an intense 5 day, largely classroom based, learning experience where participants learned about the principals of Human Centred Design, Nepalese Culture, Appropriate Technology and basic language classes. The second phase gave participants an opportunity to live in a rural Himalayan village for five days and immerse themselves in the local way of life. Through this experience the team gained a unique insight into the challenges facing the rural Nepali communities and gained an appreciation for their way of life. The final five days of the Summit centred on using the knowledge gained through the classroom based learning and the immersive cultural experience to develop potential projects and ideas for the communities’ benefit. The finale of the Summit involved presenting our thoughts and ideas back to the community members.
The Arup team came from a variety of engineering backgrounds and brought valuable knowledge and experience to the programme. Arup staff had a hands-on role with the university teams in immersing themselves in the rural way of life and getting to know locals and the challenges they face on a daily basis. From this insight the teams developed ideas for villagers in the areas of agriculture, water security, health and safety and tourism to enhance their quality of life and address specific issues they face.
The team developed a strong rapport with the local community and university team and together they fully engaged in a truly two-way knowledge sharing experience; from learning how to plough a field with a buffaloto how to minimise waste through repurposing and reuse.
New ideas to improve the community
Following the community presentations the villages were excited to try many of the ideas presented such as ways improving tourism value in their village, increasing agricultural productivity through the introduction of biochar to their soil, reducing water loss to evaporation and improving the quality of life for village elders with innovative health and safety solutions. The solutions and ideas presented clearly showed how the design team could strongly empathise with the village way of life and took care to provide ideas that were culturally sensitive, cost effective and simple to implement and maintain. The design teams learned how human centre design and appropriate technology can be applied in all areas of engineering outside of the development field. Through this experience the Summit team came to understand their roles as engineers in society in a different and more holistic way with a stronger focus on empathy and consideration of the end use.
Through the Summit the Arup team built strong connections across Australia and Nepal. The Summit team gained a unique learning experience which they can share with their colleagues and enhance the human aspect of projects Arup undertakes.