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Title:The impact of how and why a project begins on project outcome in Engineers Without Borders – USA
Author(s):Perozzi, Nicholas
Advisor(s):Witmer, Ann-Perry; Rodriguez, Luis
Contributor(s):Jahnke, Keilin
Department / Program:Engineering Administration
Discipline:Agricultural & Biological Engr
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Engineers Without Borders
contextual engineering
Global South
service learning
developing countries
international engineering
international engineering project
Abstract:Introduction There are efforts by the Global North to improve the lives of the Global South, including small-scale engineering projects by Engineers Without Borders – USA (EWB). These efforts have been met with mixed levels of success, defined here as the ability to meet local needs and improve local capacity. According to literature, the success of these Global North efforts has been influenced by factors present in their initial stages, particularly the approaches and motivations of parties involved. The research objective of this paper is to assess the relationship between the initial stages of EWB international engineering projects (IEPs) and their outcome, specifically how EWB initially approaches IEPs as well as why stakeholders get involved in IEPs. Methodology An explanatory mixed methods approach was used. Surveys and follow-up interviews were administered to former and current EWB participants, ranging from project team members up to full-time EWB staff. The survey data yielded 85 usable survey responses accounting for 306 EWB IEP experiences, and the interview data yielded 10 interviews representing 16 EWB chapters and 34 EWB IEPs. Survey findings were assessed via the Mann-Whitney U test for statistical significance, and interview findings were interpreted via inductive thematic analysis. Results and analysis The survey analysis determined that projects selected by chapters without any criteria or particular community in mind yielded significantly lower reported rates of success (as defined above) than other projects (p = 0.0136). Projects where a chapter had a particular community in mind were observed to have higher reported rates of success than others (p = 0.0769). The interview analysis yielded 14 themes pertaining to how EWB projects begin (eight positive influencers on success, two neutral, and four negative). Pertaining to why stakeholders enter EWB IEPs, the interview analysis yielded eight additional themes (four positive influencers, two neutral, and two negative). Themes with positive influence on project outcome included: establishing relationships with local stakeholders, readout of local circumstances, contextual awareness, projects with existing relationships and partnerships, flexibility in approach, coherent communication within EWB chapter, non-engineers in the EWB project process, EWB in-country staff, unified definitions of success, volunteer introspection, being upfront about your capabilities as a volunteer, and local initiative in local capacity building. Negative influences included: efficiency of the dual mission, approval preceding assessment, many chapters do not emphasize go, no-go option, issues rooted in community application, mixed understandings of short-term vs long-term aid, and ethics of the dual mission. Themes with neutral or mixed influence on project outcome included: variety of methods of first contact between EWB and partnered communities, disparity of initial approaches from chapters, variety of motivations for volunteer involvement, mixed motivations for community involvement, and outcome sometimes out of project’s control. Conclusions Regarding how EWB IEPs begin, communicating and interacting effectively with local stakeholders was by far the most positive influencer for success. Moreover, the formal EWB process had both a positive and negative influence on IEP outcome. Regarding why stakeholders get involved in EWB IEPs, compatibility of stakeholder motivations was a crucial influencer on IEP outcome. Personal reflections on motivations were also significant influencers on IEP outcome, for both EWB chapters and the partnered communities in IEPs.
Issue Date:2021-10-29
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Nicholas Perozzi
Date Available in IDEALS:2022-04-29
Date Deposited:2021-12

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