Five Guiding Principles to Enhance Community Participation in Humanitarian Engineering Projects.
Humanitarian engineering (HE) is a very complex endeavour that requires addressing technical problems whilst concurrently engaging the community members who will ultimately benefit from the engineers’ solutions. Community participation is particularly important because it is directly linked to the sustainability of projects. Whilst many strategies have been proposed to engage partner communities, the HE literature lacks a comprehensive framework of guiding principles for more effectively engaging community members. The goal of this study is to develop a framework of principles that can support humanitarian engineering professionals and educators to enhance the participation of community members. In this study, we used a qualitative systematised literature review to collect 49 journal articles focused on humanitarian engineering projects and strategies. The analysis of the collected papers led to identification of five guiding principles: 1) collaborating with local champions (NGOs and similar), 2) harnessing local resources and expertise, 3) integrating ethics and social justice, 4) building trusting and equitable relationships, and 5) creating competent multi or inter-disciplinary teams. The identified principles provide a framework that can enable humanitarian professionals and educators involved in small-scale HE projects to enhance the way they interact with community members. We conclude the paper with a series of questions based on the five principles that may allow humanitarian engineers to reflect on the way they interact with community members and thus enhance their relationships. We also invite other humanitarian engineers to further expand concepts related to the suggested principles, and to explore ways to best apply these principles in practice.
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