Socially responsible design

The concept of 'socially responsible design' means that, as an engineer, you should think about how you can increase the societal impact of your project by not limiting yourself to technical measures.Engineers are used to generating societal benefits with smart technical interventions, but sometimes more is needed – such as behavioural and socio-economic measures.

The best way to alleviate traffic jams, for example, is not always to lay even more tarmac, but to introduce behavioural measures such as speed limits. Likewise, widening a beach to increase water safety will not automatically lead to additional recreational benefits, even though there is now literally room for this. For that to happen, we need the right socio-economic conditions: can entrepreneurs obtain permits and funding, for example? If the right conditions aren’t there, they have to be created, and that means incorporating socio-economic measures. Engineers who are mindful of this can greatly increase the societal impact of their projects.

Experienced project leaders often have a good idea of the societal context of their project, which enables them to identify the most relevant societal measures. The trick is therefore to 'do something with what you can see'.

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