Oct 31, 2010

ACTKM10 Nick Byrne : Collaborative KM in EWB - Engineers without Borders in Aid Development

I found Nick Byrne's preso very exciting - as did Kate Stewart (see her excellent post). My notes from his preso follow, along with some my exposure to the EWB Challenge at the University of Wollongong.

Having long been associated with engineers, I was well aware that all too often Engineers are seen by many as the problem, rather than a source of solutions to problems. 

So shortly before I retired as an elected Local Government Councillor in 2004, and following the 2004 Johannesburg Earth Summit, I had gain my Council's support to consider supporting the 1st Year Engineering Creative Design project ie "Council consider supporting the Creative Design Competition Project for First Year Engineering students at Wollongong University – with an award encouraging ESD principles – i.e. Award for Most Innovative Sustainable Design." (page 48 of Council minutes).

Sadly Wollongong Council did not seem to have followed through on this. Although 1st Year Engineering students in Wollongong University have picked up the innovation & sustainability challenge later on, without the support of their local City Council.

However, at the 2008 & 2009 Wollongong University's annual 1st Year Engineering Creative Design Project, where I was on the Judging Panels, I found that some students had embraced the annual EWB Challenge centred around Tonle Sap, Cambodia. In both 2008 & 2009  at least one  of the final teams had selected a project which they also planned to enter in EWB Cambodia Tonle Sap Challenge. In 2008 the team who designed & built a bicycle powered washing machine made the UOW finals. In 2009 a UOW Finals Team featured in the Top 20 projects with their Floating Agricultural Station. So I was really looking forward to hearing how EWB were using KM in their aid work.

Now back to my notes on Nick Byrne's preso : Knowledge Management for CollaborativeInnovation in Development Engineering – Engineers without Borders

Intro to what EWB do  – Engineers without Borders : note - Disaster Response handled by REDR vs Long Term Solutions done by EWB. (For more on REDR see bottom of blog post) 

They are moving towards Knowledge Management based around Hubs incl Renewable Energy - Indigenous Australia Hub

Key approach : SMELS – Strategy Measurement Evaluation Learning Sharing

Learning & Sharing vital : link with & support external organizations

Key approach : Collaborate Innovate Celebrate

IP – Creative Commons

Different professional disciplines have different ethos wrt knowledge sharing – science vs engineers vs lawyers

Exercise : Dan Pink : Why How What approach to what you are trying to achieve

·         Why? - are the underlying motives ? Is there a bigger theme that your organization is contributing to ? EWB seeking to facilitate pro bono culture Australia

·         How ? is your organization contributing to the pursuit within your industry/sector/cause ?

·         What ? outcomes have you seen ?Are there unanticipated spin-off effects for your clients ?

·         Cognitive surplus – how to leverage – ie how much structure or not ? crowdsourcing

·         your goal isn’t to do business with people who want what you have – but to do business people who believe what you believe and what you do simply serves as proof of what you believe


·         What prevents collaboration within your org – (responses : protecting your turf, lone wolf syndrome IP issues – Chinese Walls – fear of competition)

·         Discuss what incentives exist to collaborate inter-organizationally – requires a level of maturity of org leadership – cross company networks

Social innovation – potential to influence in government

Note - Comments from conference attendees Professional Associations do knowledge sharing eg at conferences

Nick mentioned that Humanitarian Engineering is starting to appear on the engineering curriculum of some Australian Universities. My perception as a former External Advisory Committee Member to UOW's Engineering Faculty is that this is no mean feat as the engineering curriculum is generally quite solidly packed at any university - so it is hard to get anything else added in.

He described how EWB is  Working with University Students : eg Engineers and Social Justice Program – 2nd Year at UWA.

Tweets on Nick's preso :


metaphorageOct 18, 2:16pm via Twitter for iPhone

#actkm10 @thinkquick being a bit of a cynic about incentives- that's unusual! One of the best (positive) critical thinkers I know

metaphorageOct 18, 2:15pm via Twitter for iPhone

#actkm10 @byrnenick stories being shared around exames where knowledge was shared and what barriers or motivator were involved

metaphorageOct 18, 2:06pm via Twitter for iPhone

#actkm10 @byrnenick discussing how to share effectively: collaborate, innovate, celebrate.

KerrieAnneOct 18, 2:04pm via Mobile Web

Nick Byrne Engineers without Borders EWB at#actkm10 on leveraging KM to achieve more

NeridaHartOct 18, 2:04pm via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Collaborate innovate celebrate #actkm10

metaphorageOct 18, 1:49pm via Twitter for iPhone

What a surrise @ByrneNick an engineer thinking that beer is a good knowledge sharing tool - not first time lubricated #KM feature #actKM10

metaphorageOct 18, 1:45pm via Twitter for iPhone

#actkm10 @byrnenick sharing knowledge with indigenous organisations on renewable energy communities, both strategy & implementation

metaphorageOct 18, 1:42pm via Twitter for iPhone

#actkm10 @byrnenick from Engineers without Boarders, volunteers helping disadvantaged people to create change.

last word : metaphorageOct 18, 2:20pm via Twitter for iPhone

#actkm10 all the ladies asking lots of questions of @byrnenick - perhaps young enthusiastic engineer eager to share is an incentive? :)


In 2010 UOW has set its EWB Challenge as its ENGG 154 Subject as Engineering Design & Innovation. This time it's an Indigenous theme : "to assist the sustainable development of Kooma traditional owners in Queensland." I'm looking forward to judging again on November 19 2010, and hopefully sharing the ideas generated with my Torres Strait Islander cousin James William, who is very active in promoting Indigenous education and employment.
REDR Australia : As Nick indicated, Engineers can also be part of Disaster Relief - refer :REDR Story from Professional Network November 2010 p.20 (logon needed)  ....
Melbourne electrical engineer and APESMA member Dinesh Jayasuriya’s lucky escape from the
Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 has had a big impact on his life. It made him want to help people in
desperate need.... “We were actually supposed to be on the train that got hit, killing more
than 1,500 passengers,” he says. “But through pure chance we’d missed it. At that time, as an engineer, I didn’t think there was anything I could do to help. I always thought emergency situations were only for medical people and that engineers came in later, for long-term development – rebuilding bridges and the like. “But that’s not true. There are things
engineers can do during an emergency.


Engineers Without Borders understands the strategic importance that efficient knowledge management brings to organisations. However, we are fortunate that, at least internally, the organisational cultural barriers that exist elsewhere are not prevalent. For example, the protectionist attitudes that some consultants place around their knowledge, as they feel it is their competitive advantage in the workplace.

To date, Knowledge Management literature seems to have focused on comparative advantage for organisational gain – but what about utilising knowledge management as a tool for inter-organisational collaboration around important issues such as peak oil and the millennium development goals? In this presentation, we hope to present to you some fundamental questions around data, information, knowledge and wisdom in the context of EWB and the Knowledge Centre. Also, how EWB is participating, through its knowledge management processes, in expanding their sectors knowledge of best practice.


Posted via email from kerrieannesfridgemagnets's posterous

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