Innovation in International Development through Knowledge Exchange and Collaborative Working in Project Teams

Innovation in International Development through Knowledge Exchange and Collaborative Working in Project Teams

El Salvador
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Engage for Development facilitates projects that achieve the following:

1. International Development through Engineering;
2. Students Project teams supported by professionals;
3. Knowledge Exchange;
4. Hands-On Work;
5. Team Organisation and Fundraising;
6. Total Design Solution.

These teams build robust and sustainable solutions for local infrastructure and low-cost housing, where students, professionals and local community members exchange technical and practical skills. The work is hands-on, with groups made up of both volunteers and the community members. The students also fundraise and organise their own project, training them to take a leading role in engineering development works in the future.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Poor and marginalised families within a community are generally the greatest beneficiaries. They gain technical skills, financial assistance and are empowered by the opportunity our projects give them to have their opinion heard. Volunteers benefit by gaining valuable on-site experience, knowledge of the realities faced in developing countries and an increased edge in employability over other students. The presence of ‘Total Design’ as one of Engage’s fundamental pillars means that the projects are always approached holistically, and so always have the environment as a driving force. The innovative methodology of Knowledge Exchange is critical in producing these benefits.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The innovation lies in our methodology of working, and the approach we have to empowerment through the process of knowledge exchange. The current trend in development organisations is to place emphasis on the knowledge that can be contributed by technical experts from the west, passing this knowledge on to communities in developing countries. Engage for Development however equally values of all the kinds of knowledge held by all the parties involved in a development project. We find the optimum solution for successful and sustainable development to be in the mutual exchange of this knowledge among the individuals and groups concerned. Using our approach volunteers with training, technical skills and resources from the western world work hand-in-hand with community members who possess local expertise and greater practical skills. The aim is to enable the correct settings for knowledge exchange between these two groups to take place in optimal, on-site conditions. The overall objective is therefore both development and education. The locals gain technical abilities and on-site support to empower them to take ownership over their project. The volunteers develop their practical skills, on-site experience in the development sector and an appreciation of the environmental and social issues related to engineering projects.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

As previously mentioned, since its inception Engage for Development has gone on to facilitate and improve the El Salvador Project, ensuring the process the founders developed is maintained, and has now been approached by a number of other projects from universities throughout the UK with an interest in working with the organisation. The organisation has also grown rapidly, starting from its first three founders to now having a voluntary staff of eight and set to increase over the coming year. Finally within our first year of operation we achieved a turnover in excess of £50 000, which this year we aim to double with the incorporation of further projects.
About You
Engage for Development
About You
First Name

Michael Maks

Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Engage for Development

Organization Phone


Organization Address

Flat 9 Hillcrest, 51 Ladbroke Grove, London, W11 3AX

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact

, XX

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Engage for Development was founded by: Saskia de Longvilliers, Sebastian Kaminski and Michael Maks Davis. The inspiration for the charity arose out of the experiences they had when working together as volunteers on the El Salvador Project whilst studying their engineering degrees at Imperial College London. This award-winning project has taken place annually since 2002 and is organised entirely by students, working closely with the local community on construction projects ranging from seismically-resistant housing to retaining walls and sanitation systems. They realised that the methodology developed through their work was not only unique, innovative and with a proven track record, but that it could also be replicated for similar projects in developing countries dealing with infrastructure and low-cost housing in urban areas.
Since its inception Engage for Development has gone on to facilitate and improve the El Salvador Project, and is now set to expand to facilitate a further three projects this year. Furthermore the initial work carried out by the founders has inspired others to become involved, and the organisation has recruited a number of officers for running specific areas of the charitable company. The organisation is also advised and assisted by its patrons and general supporters.

Social Impact
How many people have been impacted by your project?

Fewer than 100

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

The volunteer groups are responsible for the overall organisation and fundraising of their project, which is essential for the educational value of the work. The risk is that Engage for Development needs to ensure that its methodology is being applied according to its mission statement and core objectives. Pre-, During and Post-Project Forms have therefore been developed, which: a) gauge the feasibility of potential projects and whether they fall within the Mission and Objects of the organisation, and b) initiate an iterative process where Engage provides useful feedback, helping teams and their projects to reach their full potential.

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

On a yearly basis we review our previous work and update our ideals to ensure they are still state-of-the-art with respect to the current International Development community best practice.
We aim to:
1) Expand to facilitate further voluntary team projects in developing countries, with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean.
2) Showcase the innovative methodology that has been developed by Engage for Development to partner organisations.
3) Expand our activities and take on further voluntary staff, eventually reaching a point where people will be employed full time.
4) Create a knowledge database to facilitate maximum knowledge exchange.

For each selection, please explain the financial and non-financial support from each

- Friends, family and individuals provide a lot of the financial support for sponsored events, which are held to raise funds for Engage for Development’s overhead costs.
- They are also amongst the donors who often support the respective voluntary team projects facilitated by Engage.
- Foundations, other NGO’s and businesses have provided critical advice and technical support in the past for Engage’s own activities and those related to the organisation. They have also been instrumental in financing projects facilitated by Enagage.
- Universities have been essential in being the base for the voluntary team projects. They are also crucial in ensuring that legal liabilities are not on the shoulders of the project team members. University trusts also provide financial support for the projects facilitated. Finally, universities have provided technical support and training for the projects facilitated in the past.

How do you plan to grow and/or diversify your base of support in the next three years?

This year we aim to expand to facilitate a further three projects, and thereby incorporate a further two to three universities into the activities of Engage for Development. In the next three years Engage for Development has planned to expand to 10-20 projects, which will greatly increase and diversify our base of support on all fronts. The organisation has also recently taken on a voluntary officer dedicated to fundraising. Over the next three years the focus is first on establishing new relationships with regional and local governments, with the aim of the organisation’s educational values being recognised and thus funding being granted to grow and expand further. Second the aim is to maximise the support generated for sponsored events and competition entries. Third Engage is in the process of creating working relationships with fellow institutions and organisations. The aim is to establish working agreements with like-minded institutions to ensure that cooperation is encouraged and lessons learnt are disseminated, whilst competition and clashes between organisations are avoided. Finally Engage plans to take a more active role in the funding and facilitating of a housing improvement program designed by Ove Arup & Partners.

Please select your areas of intervention in the home improvement market

Financing, Design, Technology, Technical assistance, Labor, Sanitation, Water, Infrastructure, Energy conservation, Renewable energy, Green housing, Environment, Urban development, Rural development, Citizen/community participation, Other (please specify).

Is your innovation addressing barriers in the home improvement/progressive housing market? If so, please describe in detail your mechanisms of intervention

In development and housing projects whilst the intentions are invariably good, in reality mistakes are unfortunately often made that lead to unsafe and/or resource hungry buildings being constructed. This is usually due to either a) the local community being unaware of the technical detailing required for a robust design, or b) the technical experts being unaware of the local environment and social context where the housing is located.
Engage for Development works on the basis of Knowledge Exchange and Hands-on-Work. This means that in any project work group there is a mix of locals, volunteers and representatives from the partner NGO. By carrying out the on-site work together the correct conditions are created for technical and practical skills to be exchanged, whilst also bringing societal and environmental factors to light. In this way the lack of technical or local knowledge that often provides a barrier to the home improvement/progressive housing market is eliminated.

Are you currently collaborating with private companies, or have you partnered with private companies in the past? With which companies?

Engage for Development does not currently collaborate with private companies. However we have worked alongside and been supported by companies in the past. This is usually due to the fact that the Directors and Officers of Engage generally work for engineering consultancies. An example of this is the overlap between Engage for Development and Ove Arup & Partners, both of whom are currently involved in housing projects with the same local NGO in El Salvador. Engage facilitates the Imperial College London El Salvador Project, and Arup is providing consulting services for a seismic analysis and improvement program for a housing design. Furthermore one of the directors of Engage is the project manager for the Arup project. Whilst there is no formal collaboration in the project, both organisations inevitably cooperate for a common cause. In the future Engage plans to take a more active role in the funding and facilitating of the housing improvement program designed by Arup. This reflects the fundamental pillar of Engage to facilitate projects organised by students supported by professionals. It is essential to have a professional institution review the designs to be constructed, so that no grave technical mistakes will be made on-site. This is also a further example of how Engage’s activities are based around Knowledge Exchange. Finally, the projects facilitated by Engage often receive a great deal of funding from private companies. These tend to be engineering based, but have in the past also extended to financial consultancies at charitable companies.

Please describe in detail the nature of the partnership(s)

Please refer to the answer above. Engage for Development has worked alongside companies with the same NGO for a common cause. In the future we also plan to more actively support and facilitate the Ove Arup & Partner’s housing improvement program. Additionally the projects we facilitate usually receive a great deal of funding from private companies, ranging from engineering consultancies to financial institutions and charitable companies.

Select the unit(s) with which the partnership was formed

Corporate social responsibility department, Other (please specify).