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Civil Engineer blog

Engaging Communities: A role for engineers?

05 November 2020

A new ICE Community of Practice is sharing best practice in Community Engagement, starting with a draft statement of Principles. Have your say to help shape this emerging agenda.

Engaging Communities: A role for engineers?
ommunity engagement during planning, construction and operation is an area of increasing priority. Image credit: Shutterstock

Civil engineers deliver infrastructure, buildings and services that support a healthy, sustainable society. This is the core purpose of the profession, but engineering work is often done at a distance from the communities we serve. High profile engineering projects face strong local opposition from communities bearing the negative impacts of construction. Engineers may miss important local information, knowledge and opportunities to improve sustainability and resilience in design and delivery.

Working together

Community engagement during planning, construction and operation is an area of increasing priority, requiring a stronger evidence base to develop and share best practice. Only by working together and truly engaging the public, can we bring about change and deliver more resilient, sustainable cities and infrastructure. The ICE has launched a Community of Practice to engage practitioners, researchers and community representatives to build knowledge and share best practice about community engagement in engineering projects.

Community engagement with infrastructure and engineering projects is typically led by non-technical professions such as public relations and communications, and focuses on educating the public about the benefits and impacts of infrastructure. Engineers and associated technical professions often fail to harness all the contributions that communities could make to development of infrastructure projects and their subsequent success. More productive engagement with communities requires stronger integration between social and technical factors in decision-making and design.

Community of Practice

The Community of Practice has proposed a draft statement of Principles for Community Engagement with Engineering. These will be launched at the ICE strategy session on 10 November 2020, seeking feedback from engineers, community members and other interested stakeholders.

Should ICE adopt a set of principles like this? Are these the right principles? Is anything missing? Please let us know your thoughts, and join us in further developing this important, emerging agenda for the profession.

Proposed Draft ICE Principles for Community Engagement with Engineering

  1. Supporting sustainable, healthy communities is a core purpose of the engineering profession.
  2. Technical decisions are social decisions. Community impacts and interests are part of, not separate to, engineering design and delivery.
  3. Community engagement should be considered as early as possible and throughout the engineering and infrastructure lifecycle.
  4. Communities are diverse. Engineering and infrastructure projects need to identify needs and aspirations of communities they work with and for. This includes addressing how race, faith, disability, gender, family circumstances and economic status lead to different impacts and opportunities to engage for different groups.
  5. Community engagement with engineering and infrastructure projects should be based on empowerment, equity, trust and learning.
  6. Communities should be provided with appropriate information about engineering and infrastructure projects and their impacts.
  7. Relevant community groups and stakeholders in engineering decisions and projects need to be identified and represented systematically.
  8. Clear objectives for processes of engagement need to be agreed among participants at the outset.
  9. Methods of engagement should recognise power inequalities and enable two-way learning between participants.
  10. Methods should be selected and tailored to the decision-making context, considering the objectives, type of participants and appropriate level of engagement.

Related links

  • Watch our recent Strategy Session which looks at Communty Engagement
  • If you’d like to get involved in the Community of Practice, or have any other comments or questions, please contact us
  • , Chartered Engineer & Professor of Environmental Engineering, Bartlett Institute, University College London