Engineering International Development: Theories and Practices of Cross Cultural Solutions

Serra, Alyssa
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University of Delaware
This project investigates issues of efficacy of non-governmental organizations (NGO) that work in a cross cultural setting. In the context of ecological anthropology, it explores issues of adaptability and processes for exchanges of technology between local cultures and NGOs. This theory holds that adaptations of communities to local ecological constraints are an attempt to maintain access to essential resources through development of political, economic, and technological structures. The adaptations related specifically to these structures include local innovations of ideas and technologies societies develop to fit concepts of need, want and benefits. Implications of this theory in response to NGO work involve the inclusion of these concepts in project design to facilitate the process of exchange and use of non-local adaptive technologies. Creation of culturally acceptable and long-term solutions contributes to fulfilling factors of sustainability of these NGO projects. In addition to the theoretical material, this paper investigates five secondary cases and one primary case involving Engineers Without Border-University of Delaware chapter concerning different approaches to changes in adaptive strategy around the world and explores specific factors that facilitate exchanges of these strategies across cultures. Amongst the factors discussed are inclusions of local perceptions of want, need, and success into program design and implementation. It is argued that this is best accomplished by including communities in problem definition and solution design, and including mechanisms within program design that encourage innovations of these strategies at the local level. Ultimately, this paper recommends conditions under which these exchanges of technologies can occur so that proposals of change in adaptive strategy across cultures are more likely to act as successful and sustainable solutions.