Social design

The ‘Social design’ principle means that, as an engineer, you consider how you can increase the social impact of your project by not restricting yourself to technical measures. Engineers are used to creating social benefits with smart technical interventions, but sometimes more is needed, such as behavioural or socio-economic measures.

For example, laying more asphalt is not always the best way to solve traffic jams, but behavioural measures such as speed limits are. In the same way, widening a beach to improve water safety will not necessarily lead to extra recreational benefits, even though there is literally space for them now. After all, the right socio-economic conditions must be in place for this: can entrepreneurs obtain permits and financing, etc.? If the right conditions are missing, they must be created, which means adding socio-economic measures. Engineers who are aware of this can greatly increase their projects’ social impact.

Experienced project managers are often very aware of their projects’ social context. This enables them to identify the most relevant social measures easily. The trick is to ‘work with what you see’.

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