Cultivating the Assimilative Perspective in Contextual Engineering – Knowing What You Don’t Know

  • Ann-Perry Witmer University of Illinois
Keywords: Humanitarian engineering, Contextual Engineering, international development, perceptions


Contextual Engineering methodology affords engineering practitioners a more robust process for identifying socioeconomic and cultural conditions within a client community that could affect adoption and sustainability of a technical infrastructure. This methodology seeks to build an assimilative view of the client through direct interactions, which enable practitioners to assess critical local conditions without filtering their understanding through the lens of their own experiences. Some practitioners assert that direct interaction with a client community is unnecessary to achieve an assimilative view, particularly in an era when information is widely available via the internet, and communication with remote partners is possible using a variety of technologies. But assessments of the perceptions of engineering practitioners engaged in two separate projects in Latin America before and after travel to the client communities demonstrate that their understanding of community conditions were altered dramatically once they interacted with residents and experienced site conditions first hand.

Author Biography

Ann-Perry Witmer, University of Illinois

College Administration - IEFX Program Teaching Associate