Over the past month, Julia Kramer (fellow PhD student, Clevelander, friend) and I put together a piece outlining what constitutes the emerging field of development engineering, how it's different from engineering, why it matters, where it started, and where it's going. Julia and I both were lucky enough to get involved with development engineering programs during our undergrads (at Penn State and Michigan) and so have been thinking about the nature of development engineering programs for some time now. Writing the piece provided a great opportunity to reflect on our academic space and think about how the ecosystem could change to lead to greater levels of social change. The full article from Impact Design Hub can be found here and the introduction is below!
Development Engineering: A Critical Overview
Development engineering is an emerging field that brings together communities, businesses, students, faculty, NGOs, and governments, as well as for- and non-profit organizations, with the intention of working collaboratively to solve global challenges. It is, by design, a multidisciplinary field that bridges engineering with social sciences such as economics, public health, and gender studies alongside business and entrepreneurship for societal benefit. In order to understand where this new field is headed, both independently and within the broader context of impact design, it’s important to understand where it came from as well as its current state of development, which is what this overview sets out to do.
The history that paved the way for the emergence of development engineering, as well as the drivers behind it and the core tensions that currently characterize it, will all be explored here from our perspective: two current PhD students in the Development Engineering program at U.C. Berkeley. The authors have seen the academic side of development engineering within the university setting as well as the entrepreneurial side, a perspective gained through each having run technology-based ventures in the healthcare space.
Because it’s a nascent and rapidly growing field, development engineering has its challenges, as all sectors of impact design do. However, this growth is coupled with an increase in opportunities to both accomplish the social work that the field sets out to do, as well as to begin addressing the internal challenges development engineering faces. Thus, the field has significant potential to make impactful changes to the contemporary social issues faced by society at local and global levels.