by James Harper
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 EWB-USA West Coast Regional Conference in Las Vegas. One of many productive and interesting conferences put on by EWB-USA, a few presentations stood out as being particularly helpful and applicable to our work here at the San Diego Professional Chapter of EWB-USA. Here are a few highlights:
Sarah Moore of the University of Arizona presented on community participation in a sanitation project that provided latrines and showers in a mountain town of Bolivia. She noted that community members sharing showers did not seem to affect their sustainability, but sharing latrines did; people seemed more willing to repair and clean showers for each other than latrines. Additionally, issues such as heated water, especially in the cold Andes Mountains, was shown to be a critical component of a successful shower project; community members reported that they thought that sickness was likely caused by showering in cold water. However, the main takeaway from Sarah's presentation was how critical it is to identify red flags (i.e., likely insurmountable problems that will affect project success) in a project before going ahead with implementation. Some of the red flags that she encountered on this project included the community scheduling a festival during their implementation trip; a lack of leadership in the community due to rotating leaders too frequently and only among men; poor communication between the NGO and the community; and the community trying to get out of their 5% cash contribution before implementation began. Identifying these red flags before implementation begins is critical to prevent project failure.
On October 6, the EWB-USA San Diego Professional Chapter held our annual fall fundraiser. This year's topic was “Defining Sustainability,” in which we explored the concept of sustainable design and its centrality in each of EWB’s three project phases: Assessment, Design & Implementation, and Monitoring. The program focused on utilizing local resources to solve problems, with solutions designed around the communities’ needs and strengths.
The evening featured three presentations and a Q&A session with the presenters. Cody Hooven, Chief of Sustainability for the City of San Diego, presented on the Assessment phase. Her presentation focused on sustainability planning and policy for San Diego, exploring how transportation, green buildings, renewable energy, climate adaptation and resilience, and social equity are included in the city's approach to sustainable communities.
Brandon Reynante, Professor of Humanitarian Engineering at UCSD, presented on the Design & Implementation phase. His presentation highlighted the importance of appropriate technology and cultural understanding to the long-term sustainability and success of projects.
Dr. Harold Bailey, a local leader in the water industry and active member of Water for People, presented insights from his trip to Peru with a Water for People Impact Tour in 2014 to discuss the Monitoring phase of projects. His presentation emphasized the significance of maintaining relationships with communities beyond project completion to ensure their ongoing success.
The event was catered by Kitchens for Good, a San Diego social enterprise aiming to break the cycles of food waste, poverty and hunger through innovative programs in workforce training and healthy food production.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the success of this year's fundraiser! Click here to view photos from the event.