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Civil Engineer blog

8 things engineers shouldn't forget when engaging with communities

14 July 2022

Community engagement is an essential part of the engineer’s role. ICE has created guidelines to support best practice. 

8 things engineers shouldn't forget when engaging with communities
Residents of the Kipling Estate, London in a co-design workshop, part of the Community Water Management for a Liveable London (CAMELLIA) programme.

Enabling sustainable and resilient communities is a core purpose of civil engineering.

The ICE Code of Conduct states: ‘All members shall have full regard for the public interest, particularly in relation to matters of health and safety, and in relation to the well-being of future generations’.

Engineers are increasingly called upon to work on ‘wicked problems’ for which there is no clear, single technical solution.

Engaging local communities requires new understanding of the role of engineering in infrastructure delivery.

This includes considering how engineers work with community engagement specialists and established community leaders.

Benefits of community engagement

Community engagement can help to:

  • maximise and share benefits
  • minimise and mitigate negative effects of projects on communities
  • improve project delivery and outcomes

Effectively engaging with local communities is a responsibility of engineers at different stages of the infrastructure lifecycle, from conception to decommissioning.

It’s also a responsibility across different organisational levels and career stages, from apprentice and graduate to senior leader and policy maker.

ICE Principles for Community Engagement with Engineering

Community engagement takes many forms, depending on the site, project and community.

The ICE has defined a set of principles to support best practice:

  1. Supporting sustainable, thriving communities is a core purpose of the engineering profession.
  2. Community impacts and interests are integral to engineering design and delivery.
  3. Community engagement should begin at the conception of projects and continue throughout the engineering and infrastructure lifecycle.
  4. A tailored engagement approach with clear objectives, processes and expectations should be agreed among all stakeholders at the outset of infrastructure decision-making and planning.
  5. Engineering and infrastructure projects should identify the diverse needs of communities they work with, giving special attention to include groups that are typically marginalised.
  6. Community engagement should consider how individuals and groups of different race, age, faith, disability, gender, sexuality, family circumstances, economic status, and other characteristics may be differently impacted by infrastructure development and may welcome different forms of engagement.
  7. Methods of engagement should recognise power inequalities and enable two-way communication and learning between communities and engineering projects.
  8. Information about engineering projects and their impacts should be shared with community members as part of a two-way process, with information being accessible to all people.

How the principles were created

The ICE Principles for Community Engagement with Engineering were drafted from established literature and finalised after consultation with civil engineers and stakeholders.

The principles are intended to be adaptable to suit a range of contexts, regions, sectors and scales of project. They can support engineers at different stages of their career and levels of influence.

They provide a foundation for further development of best practice case studies and guidance. These can then be shared through engineering education and professional development.

The principles provide core guidance to the purpose, value and nature of good community engagement.

They also set out a challenge to the sector to reflect on how to work with communities as necessary partners in delivering sustainable and resilient infrastructure.

The principles offer insight into how the core knowledge and skillset of civil engineers and other built environment professionals needs to adapt to meet this challenge.

Read the full article describing the development of the principles in the journal Civil Engineering.

Read the article

Get involved

Those interested in further contributing to the development of ICE activity on community engagement can join the ICE’s People & Communities (Community Engagement) Knowledge Network.

This knowledge network supports a community of engineers, stakeholder engagement specialists, researchers and infrastructure professionals.

This group is committed to sharing knowledge, overcoming systemic challenges and improving how we can best engage with the public throughout the infrastructure asset lifecycle.

The application form, full list of knowledge networks and further information are available on the ICE website.

Find out more

  • Professor Sarah Bell, chair of the ICE Community Engagement Community of Practice