The 11th Engineering Change Lab was held on June 15-16, 2018 at Concordia University in Montréal Québec. The CFES was represented
by CFES President Zenon Kripki and by the Engineering Change Lab Commissioner Katharine Armstrong. The 12th Engineering Change Lab was held in Vancouver October on 11-12, and was hosted by BGC Engineering. The CFES cohort was represented by CFES President Zenon Kripki, National Councillor Eric Power, and by the Engineering Change Lab Commissioner Katharine Armstrong.
The Engineering Change Lab is a collaborative platform, in the form of a social lab, where individuals and organizations from across the engineering and extended community work together to act on addressing systemic challenges holding back engineering’s full potential as a profession. Workshops are held three times a year, with more in-depth discussions happening with a smaller strategy team every month. Recently, the ECL focused in on technology’s im
pact on the world environmentally, economically, and socially, and the fact that engineers should be aware in considering these effects in their work to reach their full potential.
The CFES has been involved with the Engineering Change Lab since its very first workshop in 2015 and has participated in each of the past 10 labs. The 11th lab brought a fundamental change to how the Engineering Change Lab will operate in future, starting a new lab initiative that was tested in the 12th lab.
The ECL’s new initiative is to bring new stakeholder groups within the engineering community into the discussion, to demonstrate engineering’s need for technological stewardship, and encourage the application of it within their industries and organizations.
With this new goal in mind, the purpose of workshop #11 was to, understand technological stewardship on a deeper level, discuss applications and practices of technological stewardship and to determine universal strategies or principles that can be used to practice and interpret technol
ogical stewardship in their own context.
In previous workshops, the term “Technological Stewardship” was without its own definition. It was instead based on the two separate definitions of the combined words: “Technology is the process by which humans modify nature to meet their needs and wants” and “Stewardship is the belief that humans are responsible for the world and should take care of it”.
Workshop #11 started with the framing question:“Imagine that Canada’s engineering community are radically responsible leaders in ensuring technology makes the world a better place for all. What would that look like?”and then was followed by a brand-new draft definition of technological stewardship holistically.
“Technological stewardship is behaviour that ensures technology is used to make the world a better place for all — more equitable, inclusive, just, and sustainable. To accomplish this, technological stewardship calls on those who create and influence technology to step into a responsible leadership role. Embracing this role involves expansion — of how engineers and others see their contribution, of who participates in evolving technology, and of the perspectives considered in this evolution.”
The ECL team had drafted six main questions to get at the core of technological stewardship and to help define what technological stewardship looks like within engineering.
- What behaviours illustrate technological stewardship?
- What values support technological stewardship?
- What opportunities does technological stewardship create?
- What are the challenges to technological stewardship?
- What are existing examples of technological stewardship?
- What actions are you willing to take towards technological stewardship?
From this workshop and attendee discussions, a new format of lab workshop was decided upon with a greater focus on action and change. This new format would focus on small groups all from one organization, and have these cohorts:
- Explore the alignment between what their organizations are already doing and the Technological Stewardship principles.
- Identify where their organizations are relative to the cutting edge in their industry for each Technological Stewardship principle.
- Consider what it would be like for the organization to advance to the cutting edge in specific areas.
- Develop plans to implement one or more of the Technological Stewardship principles within their environment.
This new workshop was piloted during the Engineering Change Lab’s 12th workshop. Day one we explored Technological Stewardship with less of a high-level outlook and dove into what it looks like practically. For this we discussed the drafted principles that the Engineering Change Lab had created based on workshop 11. These principles are:
- Seek Purpose: Direct technological development to maximize positive outcomes for all
- Take Responsibility: Consider, anticipate, and manage the complex impacts of technology across the entire life cycle
- Expand Involvement: Integrate a broad range of non-technical experts and ideas into technological development
- Widen Approaches: Explore alternative ways to solve problems
- Advance Understanding: Spread knowledge about technology and technological stewardship
- Respect Diversity: Ensure technological development contributes to creating equity
- Deliberate Values: Consider underlying values and make intentional decisions
- Shared Action: We can only succeed together
After providing feedback and relating our personal and work aspiration to Technological Stewardship and the application of the principles, we began to separate into our cohorts to begin thinking on action items to develop for day 2.
At the beginning of day two each organization gathered into their cohorts to learn about a planning process called strategic doing. During this session we applied the strategic doing model in order to determine ways that each organization can take effective action to implement technological stewardship.
The CFES decided to focus the initiative on the “expand involvement” principle with a focus on broadening the variety of speakers at CFES activities. The CFES cohort also came up with a few other future initiatives we’re excited for.
The workshops were filled with deep thinking, complex problem-solving, and high hopes for the future of engineering. The discussions that were had and the actions that were started are the hopefully the beginning of a new concept of engineering and will bring a new awareness to technology’s lasting impact on society and the world.
The CFES would like to thank Concordia University and BGC Engineering not only for hosting all of us for the two labs, but for their participation and insight during the workshop.
We would like to congratulate the Engineering Change Lab on another successful lab! We are ecstatic to continue this new partnership with the Engineering Change Lab and seeing where it leads with this new change of direction. Workshop #12 in Vancouver will be a big iterative jump, but the CFES and I are excited to help with it’s development and to experience it!
My name is Katharine Armstrong. My role with the CFES as ECL Commissioner is to be the bridge between the CFES and the student voice to the engineering change Lab. Please email me at [email protected] if you have any questions about the Engineering Change Lab, opinions on Technological Stewardship, or any other perspectives on the engineer’s societal role and future of the profession.