At first glance, the role of western engineers in development may appear to be the identification of solutions, followed by a trip overseas to implement them. Often this takes the form of drilling a well, building a school, or installing a new technology developed in western labs.
EWB believes that sustainable development requires more than the simple installation of technologies however. To have the greatest impact overseas we focus on building capacity rather than the delivery of technological goods.
Our volunteers work in partnership with local organisations that are already helping communities gain access to appropriate technologies. By strengthening the extent and effectiveness of the organisation's response, EWB is helping them become better at helping communities.
While in some cases this may involve working with local engineers to adapt a technology such as a small-scale irrigation system or to teach local technicians how to construct and maintain mechanized food processing equipment, it may also involve less obvious engineering skills. Engineers' unique problem identification and solving skills have also led them to contribute to operational improvements that are increasing organisations' effectiveness; their computer knowledge has enabled them teach local staff important computer skills; and their attention to details and numbers provides them with useful skills applicable to budgeting.
In this way, no two EWB volunteers have the same jobthey determine based on the needs of the community and the operations of their partner organisation, how they can best have impact on developing communities by increasing organisational capacity.