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Civil Engineer blog

The power of partnership and participation

21 May 2019

Ahead of June's Digital DNA event, ICE’s design sprint event challenged traditional approaches to problem solving.

The power of partnership and participation
Solutions at ICE’s workshop included a smart databank for potholes

In an age when we're constantly being challenged to innovate, disrupt and advance ourselves, we look to new and emerging ways of working and collaborating. With that in mind, how do we evolve approaches within more traditional industries, specifically around problem solving?

This is where we at PwC feel that developing more collaborative partnerships can benefit us all. Let’s look to these new ways of working which can bring people with diverse, relevant skills to the table, and see how these complementing competencies spanning deep domain expertise can launch our innovation goals.

As an example, PwC Belfast partnered with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) to deliver a dedicated one-day workshop, which utilised Design Thinking techniques to tackle challenges faced by civil engineers.

Through collaboration, we generated a set of unique prototype ideas, which will be presented at Digital DNA in Belfast, on 18-19 June.

The audience

ICE convened 32 engineers and infrastructure professionals from across the UK and Ireland, providing their wealth of knowledge and experience of public infrastructure in Northern Ireland.

Joining them was PwC Belfast’s New Ventures and Blockchain team, sharing our emerging technology expertise and introducing a number of non-traditional, but fast-becoming popular, techniques from our Design Thinking toolkit.

Our goal

Part of ICE’s Digital Twinfrastructure knowledge programme, and taking the National Infrastructure Commission’s Data for the Public Good report as context, the event challenged delegates to find better ways to manage infrastructure data for the benefit of the public – data including traffic flows, public transport services, road surface condition, air quality, building performance and more.

The Design Thinking approach ensured we were focused on the wider group of infrastructure data stakeholders, but specifically empathised with the citizen – what are the needs and pain points of infrastructure users, and how can we prototype and iterate solutions that will improve their lives?

The power of this session was in the collaboration: how we brought a unique group together, bringing a variety of skill sets and a wide range of different expertise.

The scene was set to bring everyone out of their normal, everyday, working environment, to free them from their usual day-to-day, and to allow for a more open, safe and inventive environment to unlock their creativity.

We concentrated on conversation and constructive debate – to stay within the problem space and pain point exploration as long as possible; along with the visualisation and ideation capture with storyboarding, journey mapping and bodystorming (physically acting out an idea).

The ideas

Four teams of delegates each generated a unique concept idea:

  • The Dream Cloud – a publicly accessible data portal with audible, visual and other sensory features
  • The Pothole Databank – a more enriched dataset to aid highway authority decision making
  • The Data Co-ordinator – a government-controlled body enabling and facilitating ease of interoperability of multiple datasets
  • The Belfast Moodmap – an app that gathers and shares information on the urban environment, wellbeing and happiness of Belfast City users

Digital Sprint posters


When startups and corporates start to evolve their approaches to framing problems, empathising on pain points and understanding common goals, they can then strive towards a more measured, informed and relevant solution.

Embracing these forward-thinking ways of working coupled with these fresh, innovative collaborations really does enable successful engagements, future partnerships and better outcomes for people.

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  • Aisling McGibbon, Senior Product Manager, New Ventures & Blockchain, PWC