Academic City College, Accra, Ghana
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA, USA
Feb 27-28, 2020
(Optional Field Trip on Feb 29)
Academic City College (Ghana) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Institute of Science and Technology for Development (InSTeD) (USA) are delighted to co-host the 1st International Conference on Development Engineering on February 27, 28, and 29th at Academic City College in Accra. The aim of the conference is to push development engineering beyond its current limits by drawing on new design thinking, cross-cultural co-design, and project-based learning, in ways that will re-conceptualize the relationship between so-called “western” experts and the communities they hope to serve. We also address challenges that come from mobilizing the flow of technology and the integration of appropriate technologies within the milieu of policy development and execution in the developing world. The conference will provide a much-needed interdisciplinary forum for researchers, academics, government, industry, communities, and NGOs to listen, exchange experiences, and discuss how science and technology can truly bring development to the communities it seeks to support.
The developing world is beset with numerous challenges related to economic security, ecological integrity, climate change, and self-determination. These problems cut across multiple fields of human endeavor. Challenges exist in health care delivery, education, agriculture, sanitation, drought, deforestation, water shortages, and limited access to energy. These challenges limit development for self-sufficiency and pose serious national security challenges. As the Global North faces economic uncertainty and various political challenges it is progressively disengaging from its developing neighbors to the South. There is an urgent need for the developing world to come of age and sooner.
Science and engineering have long contested histories in the developing world. A recurring theme, and often a source of failure, is the lack of understanding of project proponents often for the communities they intend to serve. Similarly, “experts” often favor their own, often acontextual and lab-based, disciplinary knowledge and skills and overlook traditions and experiential expertise that is embedded in underserved communities. Finally, communities are often considered clients or customers to corporations or product developers rather than stakeholders or even collaborators.
Today, a new generation of thinkers are emerging. These innovators transcend the boundaries of traditional science and engineering and combine human-centered, cross-cultural design principles with the social sciences and humanities to define problems and develop (co-create) solutions with a community. These new thinkers do not consider themselves experts but serve as facilitators of transdisciplinary teams, who value both disciplinary and experiential knowledge. Purpose-driven scholars, researchers, and practitioners are coalescing around an emerging field that integrates the social sciences, engineering, and business to create and evaluate technological interventions that address the needs of people living in the developing world. Development Engineering is an emerging field of academic inquiry and practice that seeks to collaborate with local communities to identify problems together with communities and co-produce solutions to those problems. It’s an iterative process that is humbling and time-consuming but has the capacity to lead to sustainable solutions that a community can take ownership of as they move toward self-determination.