By Nathanael C.
During this semester in Engineering for social change I learned a lot about myself and the different skills that I have to offer in regards to changing the world around me. Engineers can make the world a better place but the impact that they have depends not just on the solution to a problem but the way in which it is pursued and the community involved. I learned about how important it is to listen to others with regards to betterment of a community. Just because in a developed world we may think that we have the solution to others happiness often we do not. Truly understanding the community helps to make a more positive difference in the long run. It is important to listen to the concerns of the community and to take advantage of the co-design process. When this is done effectively the community is more receptive to taking up the torch or responsibility for a new endeavor. Also another important factor that was renewed in its important was as the old saying goes, “If you give a man to fish he will eat for a day but if you teach a man to fish he will eat for a lifetime.” Just giving communities solutions to problems isn’t enough. The community cares to better understand the technology because when they cannot it gets left on the wayside or can go left unused or abused to its breaking point which I can assure is not the intent of the engineer that initially implement the solutions. To shorten this notion the people who will be using the tools are just as important as the tools themselves and just as an engineering must design a tool for a user so to should it spend the time to get to know the user to better design a solution for its user.
Philanthropy was a subject that I had a hard time appreciating before taking this course. In the past I had considered Philanthropy as an altruistic envisioning that could really only be taken advantage of by the truly rich or those who had chosen to given their lives to others. These people I thought of either in the sense of total commitment as in the case of a priest or monk or left to academic scholars who choose to research and expand them for their own enrichment. From this class I found that there can be a middle ground. You can encompass many philanthropic visions and missions without the complete immersion into a single scope or direction. You can use philanthropy in order to create better solutions and as I found when we looked at the X prize foundation incentivized models actually can also be a form of very effective philanthropic work.
Creating social change is a much more of a difficult concept than I had initially envisioned when we began this class. I thought that as engineers it would be pretty easy to come to a solution that was logical and the most effective. I also thought that it would be simple to supersede the government which many times creates barriers to social change and that that it would have been better to get involved with grass roots movements. As sometimes creating the change you wish to see happens first at a grass roots level before the government catches on. However, after hearing from many of the speakers and looking at many organizations with regards to funding a specific non-profit we found out that grass roots movements are good in theory but that it can be very difficult to continue funding a movement and many times you need the support of the local government and community to have the impact and the difference you desire to. All in all I would say that I really enjoyed my experience in engineering for social change. At times it felt a bit unbalanced but I know that in the future this course will only get better and help to bring more socially concisions engineers into the world who care about the impacts their projects have and who can create better solutions using engineering with regards to social problems.