Chapter 5 – Case Studies

EWB – Monitoring, Evaluating and Adapting to Failure

This report from EWB published in 2014 shows the role of failure in engineering.

INTRODUCTION: FAILURE AS MEDICINE By Dr. Ernesto Sirolli, Sustainable Development expert, founder of the Enterprise Facilitation approach.

” This is why I applaud the small-but-mighty Engineers Without Borders Canada for openly publishing stories of their failure for the world to see. In his introduction to the 2012 Failure Report, co-founder George Roter stated that failure makes us stop and reconsider, “forcing [us] to ask whether we succeeded or not, and to make changes if the answer is ‘not’.” This report is certainly not an attempt to sensationalize or glamourize failure – as in my personal experience, there is nothing sensational or glamorous about it! Rather, this is a collection of testimonies by people that are brave enough to announce to the world that they were going about it wrong. This is a challenging thing to do, but they do it because they believe in the power of opening up these difficult conversations. The stories in this report are about failure. But they are not about defeat. They are about experiences that have shaped these individuals and, through extension, the organization of which they’re a part. By challenging their work, they are challenging chronic and pervasive problems in the international development sector. They are making themselves vulnerable because they recognize that in sharing their experiences they can educate others about the realities of development on the ground. And finally, they realize that by admitting their failures – particularly those of a more personal nature – they are making a sincere and valiant effort to learn from their own mistakes. They have the foresight to realize that this failure, painful as it may be, can be a wonderful gift if they choose to take their hard earned lesson and act on it in a meaningful way. “


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To the extent possible under law, Jennifer Kirkey has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Engineering and Technology in Society - Canada, except where otherwise noted.

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