Young engineers making their contribution to change
We’ve been approved by Project Mailbox for a February fundraiser! As a “charity for other charities”, Project Mailbox is a new organization that was founded on Boston University’s campus. Each month it helps raise both awareness and funds for different non-profits. Luckily for us, we’re partnering with them for this month! If you’re wandering down Comm Ave, you’ll notice a red and white mailbox standing by Warren Towers that’s right outside of University Grill at 712 Commonwealth Avenue. You can drop in change, cash, or checks to support our work in Zambia! So if you find yourself jangling with spare coinage in your pockets, swing by the mailbox and drop it in! Every bit helps, and we are so excited to see the small acts of generosity total up as we roll into March. You can also donate online directly to our chapter here (just make sure you select “Boston University Chapter” under the “Allocate your funds” section!)
So, before you toss your change onto your dresser where it’ll be lost in the chaos of your room, think about swinging by 712 Comm Ave to help out the Naluja community in Zambia.
Here at EWB-Boston University, we’ve been hard at work adding new materials to help train our future officers, write grant proposals, and assemble records of our research. We’re getting geared up to start another semester, and our first general meeting will be in two days on Sunday, January 22 at 12:30 pm in CAS 204A. We’ll be discussing our next steps with funding, travel, and elections. We’re most excited for elections!
We’re hosting our elections for the 2012-13 school year on Sunday, January 29 and we’ll start our transition program right after our candidates hash it out with some inspired speeches! From discussions with our MCN partners and other EWB chapters, leadership transition is one of the must critical and difficult pieces of being a successful student organization. Transferring knowledge and skills is a mix of resources, mentorship, and practice. Some of the documents we’ve created to help our new officers discuss everything from “How to Run a Meeting” to “How to Silent Auction”.
Another big piece of our spring semester plans include formally introducing our technical advisors to our current research on cell phone signal amplification. Part of this will be aided by the records we’ve been generating over the break, and face-to-face discussion amongst our officers and research teams. Hopefully, the most important lessons learned will be highlighted and explored further as we invite our advisors’ expertise into the conversation.
At Boston University, we’ve been busily working on getting our program approved in Zambia, and were fortunate enough to overcome a setback when the EWB Assessment Review Committee (ARC) initially rejected our 501-New Program Application. This is not unusual, according to a contact in the EWB-Boston Professional Chapter. However, it was more than difficult to see months of hard work rejected.
Thankfully, we were able to talk to Dave Sacco, an ARC and TAC (Technical Advisory Committee) reviewer. He offered some great insight into how to successfully appeal and apply for our Program in Zambia. Thanks to Dave’s help, we were approved to open our program! Here are some of the things we learned from his short seminar:
A program is a chapter’s overarching commitment to collaboration between the chapter and community for the minimum 5 years required by EWB-USA. In comparison, a project is a small piece within a program. Projects are implemented to address the needs identified by the community.
While the distinction between these two things is relatively fine, it’s important to recognize their unique identity. There may be many projects you could implement that pertain to the program’s theme. In our case, we’re looking to focus on community health. As a part of this program, we could implement a water filtration project, a sanitation project, or the cell phone amplification project we’ve been looking at. Allowing for this type of flexibility allows EWB chapters to approach the needs of the community holistically.
When filling out your initial New Program application, you shouldn’t have all the answers or solutions. This is a red flag for ARC reviewers that you have too many preconceptions as you enter into this program.
While it can be difficult to respond to the questions the 501 may ask because it seems to want explicit answers or details, Mr. Sacco stated that ambiguity should be expected during these first steps. You haven’t, in theory, been on the ground and met your community face-to-face, yet. If anything, you may have some prospective leads on projects, but these projects cannot be successfully implemented or approved until you have gathered primary evidence and data about what the community needs and the best way to sustainably implement a solution.
In our past program in Peru, we experienced a great example of this. The community, during initial contact, discussed a desire for electricity. Based on the information our chapter had received, it seemed like solar panels would fit their needs. However, on the assessment trip, it became clear that while they could benefit from electricity, they were dying from contaminated water. From this, a new plan of action was charted to find a way to purify their water sources. Only once we had been on-site were we able to obtain a complete picture of what our community was dealing with and how to prioritize potential projects.
Make sure your community and partnering NGO are clear on who owns the projects and who ought to be the primary beneficiaries.
Although it may seem obvious, Dave Sacco reminded the seminar attendees to be clear during your discussion with partner NGOs, the government, and community leaders that your purpose as an EWB chapter is to collaboratively implement projects that address the needs the community faces. This means that the primary motivation for your work is always the community–not the NGO, not the government–the community. If this is not obvious in from your New Program application, it will not be approved by EWB.
Now that the New Year has just begun, EWB-USA will be implementing a new system to open New Programs. Now, the community or partner NGO must submit the 501 and the EWB chapter must adopt it by filling out a different form, the 502. By doing this, EWB-USA hopes to engage communities and NGOs that are invested in collaboration and actively seeking solutions. According to Dave Sacco, it seemed that EWB chapters have struggled in the past to successfully screen communities that would successfully work with the chapter. By changing the New Program application structure, hopefully, more chapters will enjoy successful and fulfilling programs with partnering communities.
Poverty tourism. It’s one of the biggest concerns we have as an organization. Cathy Leslie, the EWB-USA Director, specifically addressed it in her Annual update, and we felt it was fitting to kick off the series on the topic. So, what exactly does this term mean? It has a few layers but in a quick sentence, it’s when people visit impoverished communities and, usually, drop off ‘solutions, snap some photos with locals, and leave..never to be heard from again.
For EWB, we do not accept this system. We cannot accept being tourists. We must be engaged, committed, and honest in our intentions and efforts. How else can we expect to make change? How else can we expect communities to have hope? Cathy Leslie reminded us that this is what we’re striving to attain–a sustainable and lasting impact. As an EWB chapter, we reside in the “big picture”.
For our own budding program in Zambia, we’re still learning. For a lot of us, this is our first attempts to really step into the arena of global development in a working relationship. As an Executive Team, we’re trying to relay that distinction between international development and poverty tourism to our members. Because even if they drift away or never do anything related to EWB after college, they’ll still have that exposure to the complexities folded into the work of development groups.
EWB-Boston University has successfully returned from a jam-packed weekend of workshops, speakers, and subway rides in the Upper West Side. The 2011 Northeast Regional Conference was hosted by the Columbia University chapter, and they did a great job of lining up speakers, organizing the attendees, and facilitating the event’s success. In particular, the conference heralded speakers like the Executive Director of EWB-USA and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. There were workshops spanning member and leader training, cell phone application in Sub-Saharan Africa, fundraising, and the EWB program application process. Just like the Millennium Campus Conference, we’ll be posting a series of articles featuring some of the key takeaways we identified for our chapter and the lessons shared by the speakers. So stay tuned!
In the meantime, we’re gearing up to travel back to Boston and share our new ideas with the group so we can see what their take on it is and how they think we can customize it to fit our group’s needs.
It’s all over folks! Our Silent Auction was super successful and we were so happy to see faculty, members, and students coming out to join us as we shared a little bit about what our mission is as a non-profit and our newest project in Zambia. Our spectacular faculty advisor, Professor Muhammad Zaman, gave us a peek into what engineering global development looks like and whythese projects are so important to those living in places and conditions so unlike our own.
Our Executive Team also gave a short presentation on their history and current direction as a group. An emphasis was placed on our effort to strengthen our bonds with groups like the EWB Boston Professional
Chapter and the Millennium Campus Network. Plus, the Center for Global Health and Development was recognized as a critical partner for our newest project in Zambia. However, our Co-President was quick to remind the crowd that we are a student organization made up of 19 and 20 year olds. Sowhile we may be “saving the world” we’re also trying not to take ourselves too seriously.
After the final call for bids was made, the winners were announced and we had some great prizes including a $100 Best Buy gift card and an overnight stay for two at Hotel Commonwealth. Our final tally was a $1000–that’s money we can now dedicate to funding our project! Just like every year, we could not have done this alone. The generosity of our donor
s and supporters never ceases to humble us: Saana McDaniel, our mentor and cheerleader as we planned this event and took a few risks, the BU Engineering Alumni Office who was kind enough to add us to their Alumni Weekend events, and all of the guests who attended to hear a little more about us. Finally, we’d liketo recognize our Treasurer and Silent Auction Chair, Grace Wang, who dedicated hours and hours to the planning of this event. From the catering menu to the background music, she did an incredible job–way to go! We’re so excited for next year and we hope to see you all there!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our short series featuring some of the awesome speakers we heard from at the Millennium Campus Conference. After returning from the conference energized and inspired, we’re now busily working on our 7th Annual Silent Auction Reception for Thursday, October 27 6:00-8:30 pm. As our main fundraising event, we invite faculty, alumni, and our peers to support our work by bidding on items while they chat over appetizers and drinks. Our advisor, Professor Muhammad Zaman, will be introducing our work in Zambia in a short presentation.
Like any event, the majority of the details are finalized in the last 3 weeks. As of Thursday, we passed the 2 week mark. A catering menu has been submitted, floor plans designed, and a flurry of advertisement activity. Perhaps the most nerve-wracking piece of the auction is awaiting the arrival of donation items. We’ve been steadily adding to our inventory, but we’re making a last push to contact our local businesses in an effort to win their support. Oh, we fear rejection just like any preteen trying to arrange their first date—excuse our poor analogy, but we are engineers!
However, whether or not we make a million dollars or fifty dollars, we’re really just glad to organize an event to celebrate the work we’re doing and raise awareness of the role engineers have to play in global development. Although…we would definitely be more than happy to take that million dollars. That’s not greedy, right?
We hope to see all of our supporters there, and if you’re interested in attending email us at email@example.com.
“Dig Deeper” -Sam Vaghar
It’s only fitting that we end our MCC 2011 features on the man who started it all, Sam Vaghar. At 25, Vaghar has already spread the Millennium Campus Network to include more than 20 campuses in Boston, New York, D.C., and Chicago since its founding in 2007. By gathering already established student chapters to meet on common ground, Vaghar has created an incredible opportunity for student leaders to network, collaborate, and learn from their peers. In events like the Millennium Campus Conference, its blatantly obvious that these groups are seeking fellowship among others who are struggling to end poverty and accomplish the Millennium Development Goals.
However, when he spoke to the MCC 2011 attendees on Saturday morning at Harvard he asked for more. “Dig deeper,” he stated. While the desire to do good and make change is crucial to our movement, it’s not enough. Settling for the intention isn’t going to make actual progress. Taking it a step further, maybe we can even think about Sam himself. Rather than joining a non-profit or volunteering at a single place, he thought of a bigger picture. He created a way to contribute to global change by helping other students gain access to each other–something that wasn’t really being done in a consisten manner. The effect that MCN has had on the various projects done by its members is uncountable but undeniable.
“How” -Sam Vaghar
After asking students to “dig deeper”, Sam pushed even harder and asked us to think of the “how”. “How do we get results? How do we measure success? How do we implement?” While Vaghar agreed that these were difficult to answer, they are also necessary pieces of our work. Without taking our “why”–the things that inspire us, that fuel us, that sustain us–a step further to planning out the “how”, our intentions are wasted and forgotten. So, while floating in the land of whys may soothe your conscious, it will not contribute to the tangible development of solutions.
“1.4 Billion Reasons” -Hugh Evans
As one of the first speakers at the 2011 MCC Conference, Hugh Evans was a powerful opening act. This Australian Co-Founded the Global Poverty Project and is working to eradicate extreme poverty for the 1.4 billion people still stuck living in these wretched conditions. It’s this number that resonated with us as we sat in the audience in the Kendall Square Marriott.
Utilizing technology as an incredible tool for awareness, his non profit has created a multimedia presentation called 1.4 Billion Reasons in order to “engage and inspire audiences” in the fight against poverty. While his beachesque accent may fool you into thinking he’s happy to saunter along, his words and actions say otherwise. In his presentation, Evans articulated the irrationality of extreme poverty’s prevailing existence. In his words, “the money is there [to end it], but is the will?”
As another arm of his group’s campaign to raise awareness and catalyze action, Global Poverty Project has created a fundraising event called Live Below the Line. A challenge to people across the world to live on under $1.50 a day in order to catch a glimpse of extreme poverty’s reality. Not only does Hugh Evans act as a major figurehead of the Global Poverty Project, but Hugh Jackman, another native Australian, has stepped up to the plate to help end extreme poverty. As a member of the group’s Global Activation Advisory Panel, he’s visited the UN with Evans, presented on the Global Poverty Project’s mission, and even filmed a short clip for the Live Below the Line challenge.
“Don’t Apologize for Being Unreasonable” -Hugh Evans
In his final words as the evening concluded, Evans offered one final piece of advice, “Don’t apologize for being unreasonable.” While the rest of the world may say we’re asking for too much too soon, Evans emphatically disagrees. It’s not too fast. It’s not too much. “There are 1.4 billion reasons,” he reminds us. Extreme poverty has no place in the modern world. Our fellow human beings are being subjected to unimaginable circumstances–circumstances that make a $1.50 daily budget a reality. So we’re justified for seeking an “unreasonable” label. Evans urged us to push for more for everyone because nobody should live below the line.
“Release the Burden of Being Perfect” -Robert Kaplan
At Saturday’s opening ceremony, Robert Kaplan, a renowned leadership professor at Harvard University who has held too many positions outside of academia to list, focused on advising the 1000 students squeezed into Memorial Church on how to become better leaders. Most of the ideas he discussed had a distinctly philosophical flavor. After talking about his ‘critical questions’, he noted that all leaders need to forget this idea of perfection. It can only create a crushing weight that nobody can hold up for long. We must be honest with our faults and realize that perfection is a goal that isn’t a goal–it’s a trap.
Kaplan placed four main suggestions and questions before us to answer in order to grow as leaders.
1. Write down your strengths and weaknesses.
While this may seem innocent enough, it’s the opposite, argued Kaplan. This simple list requires leaders to truly delve to the core of what they have to offer and what they need to work on. He also noted that if you don’t know what you’re struggling with, how can you possibly make a change? So, if you can’t list off your strengths and weaknesses, don’t assume you’ll make any improvements anytime soon.
2. Write down your passions.
How do you know what your passion is? “It’s when you’re at your best,” Kaplan stated. This is the moment where we are free of all outside forces and can simply embrace the sensation of being completely engaged in life. However readers be warned, things like peer pressure and ‘conventional wisdom’ will always seek to plant seeds of doubt. Be strong.
3. Write down your values.
Okay, so maybe you think that this is the piece you can skimp on. I mean in the seconds it took you to read #3 you probably had 4-5 words pop into your head. But, do you actually live by those values? Put another way, “what are your boundaries?” asked Kaplan. If you don’t seriously think about what lines you aren’t willing to cross (ex. I won’t…lie, cheat, steal, sabotage, coerce, etc.) then, “when the moment comes to make the decision, it’s too late,” warned Kaplan. As a leader, you have to think about your boundaries before the moment to act arrives or else, almost inevitably, you’ll rationalize any partially constructed boundaries away.
4. Do you practice…
The final piece of Kaplan’s Four was the idea of practice. Can you look yourself in the eye and honestly say you practice…”self-disclosure, listening, asking for advice” etc. Leaders cannot claim to be strong leaders without practicing the traits of robust leadership. What do you practice?
Finishing his practical advice for the future leaders sitting in the pews, Kaplan ended on a final piece of food for thought, a favorite quote of his by Albert Einstein.
“Not everything that counts can be counted, and what can be counted doesn’t always count.”
So take a chance, complete the Kaplan Four and see what you discover.