Engineers and Community: How Sustainable Engineering Depends on Engineers’ Views of People

  • Juan C. Lucena
Reference work entry


Inspired by the book From Clients to Citizens: Communities Changing the Course of their Own Development which shows the importance of rethinking people from clients to citizens in the effectiveness of community development projects, the central argument of this chapter is that the successes or failures of sustainable development (SD) engineering projects depend greatly on how engineers view and engage the people they work with. During the brief history of engineering involvement in SD, engineers have worked with people, viewing them mainly as clients and less so as stakeholders, users, or citizens. Each of these views of people by engineers prescribes the way engineers listen to and work collaboratively with people to turn SD projects into real sustainability.After briefly conceptualizing listening as the most important element of dialogue and showing how SD might be more sustainable when grounded on specific localities, this chapter maps the different categories – clients, stakeholders, users, and citizens – that engineers have used, or could use, to view the people they try to serve, and how each of these categories shapes the way in which engineers listen and work with them. While listening to and working with people labeled “clients” or “stakeholders” might be more empowering for the status of engineers as experts, it might be less effective in turning SD projects into long-term sustainability. On the other hand, listening to and working with people as “users” or “citizens” might be less empowering for engineers but more effective for sustainability.


Sustainable Development Sustainable Solution Participatory Rural Appraisal Stakeholder Analysis Contextual Listening 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. A.D. Abbott, The System of Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1988)Google Scholar
  2. C. Acosta, V.J. Leon, Global Engineering: Design, Decision Making, and Communication (CRC Press, London New York, 2009)Google Scholar
  3. A. Mostashari, J. Sussman, Stakeholder-assisted modelling and policy design process for environmental decision-making. J. Environ. Assess. Policy Manage. 7(03), 355–386 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. UN Secretary General Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future – A/42/427 Annex – UN Documents: Gathering a body of global agreements, (1987)
  5. ASCE: Code of ethics, (1914)
  6. C. Baillie, Engineers Within a Local and Global Society (Morgan and Claypool, San Rafael, California, 2006)Google Scholar
  7. T. Bardini, A.T. Horvath, The social construction of the personal computer user. J. Commun. 45(3), 40–66 (1995). doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1995.tb00743.xCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. S.R. Barley, G. Kunda, Gurus, Hired Guns, and Warm Bodies : Itinerant Experts in a Knowledge Economy (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2004)Google Scholar
  9. J.C. Bridger, A.E. Luloff, Toward an interactional approach to sustainable community development. J. Rural Stud. 15, 377–387 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. T.R. Browning, E.C. Honour, Measuring the life-cycle value of enduring systems. Syst. Eng. 11(3), 187–202 (2008). doi:10.1002/sys.20094CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. D.M. Buede, The Engineering Design of Systems: Models and Methods (Wiley, New York, 2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. W.J. Carroll, World engineering partnership for sustainable development. J. Prof. Issues Eng. Educ. Pract. 119(3), 238–240 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. M.M. Cernea, Putting People First: Sociological Variables in Rural Development (Published for the World Bank [by] Oxford University Press, New York, 1985)Google Scholar
  14. F. Cleaver, The social embeddedness of agency and decision-making, in Participation: From Tyranny to Transformation (Zed Books, London New York, 2004), pp. 271–277Google Scholar
  15. B. Cooke, U. Kothari. Participation, the New Tyranny? (Zed Books, New York, 2004)Google Scholar
  16. M.L. Dertouzos, R.K. Lester, R.M. Solow, Made in America: Regaining the Productive Edge (MIT, Cambridge, 1989)Google Scholar
  17. A. Dewulf, M. Craps, R. Bouwen, F. Abril, M. Zhingri, How indigenous farmers and university engineers create actionable knowledge for sustainable irrigation. Action Res. 3(2), 175–192 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. G.L. Downey, K. Beddoes, What is Global Engineering Education for?: The Making of International and Global Engineering Educators (Morgan & Claypool, San Rafael, 2010)Google Scholar
  19. D. Eade, Capacity-Building: An Approach to People-Centred Development (Oxfam, Ireland, UK 1997)Google Scholar
  20. J. Fiksel, Designing resilient, sustainable systems. Environ. Sci. Technol. 37(23), 5330–5339 (2003). doi:10.1021/es0344819CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. P. Francis, Participatory development at the world bank: the primacy of process, in Participation, the New Tyranny? (Zed Books, London New York, 2001), pp. 72–87Google Scholar
  22. R.E. Freeman, Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach (Pitman, Boston, Massachusetts, 1984)Google Scholar
  23. T.L. Friedman, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, 2006)Google Scholar
  24. J.M. Grandin, E.W. Dehmel, Cross-cultural issues in educating engineers for the global workplace. J. Lang. Int. Bus. 8(2), 1–15 (1997)Google Scholar
  25. M. Hard, A. Knie. The grammar of technology: german and french diesel engineering, 1920–1940. Technol. Cult. 40(1), 26–46 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. H. Henderson, The Politics of the Solar Age: Alternatives to Economics (Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1981)Google Scholar
  27. S. Hickey, G. Mohan, Participation: From Tyranny to Transformation? Exploring New Approaches to Participation in Development (Zed Books, London New York, 2004)Google Scholar
  28. D. Holland, Beyond the technical fix? Participation in donor approaches to rights-based development, in Participation: From Tyranny to Transformation (Zed Books, London New York, 2004), pp. 252–268Google Scholar
  29. R. Kline, Resisting consumer technology in rural America: the telephone and electrification, in How Users Matter: The Co-Construction of Users and Technology (MIT, Cambridge London, 2003), pp. 51–66Google Scholar
  30. P.W. Laird, Advertising Progress: American Business and the Rise of Consumer Marketing (JHU, Baltimore, 2001)Google Scholar
  31. P.A. Laplante, Requirements Engineering for Software and Systems, 1st edn. (CRC, Redmond, 2009),
  32. E.T. Layton, The Revolt of the Engineers: Social Responsibility and the American Engineering Profession (The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1971)Google Scholar
  33. J. Leydens, J. Lucena, Listening as a missing dimension in humanitarian and sustainable community development efforts: the engineering curriculum as a potential learning inhibitor. IEEE Trans. Prof. Commun. 52(4), 359–376 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. C. Lindsay, From the shadows: users as designers, producers, marketers, distributors and technical support, in How Users Matter: The Co-Construction of Users and Technology. Inside Technology (MIT, Cambridge London, 2003), pp. 29–50Google Scholar
  35. J. Lucena, G. Downey, A systemic approach to global competency for engineers, in ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Chicago, 2006Google Scholar
  36. J. Lucena, J. Schneider, Engineers, development, and engineering education: from national to sustainable community development. Eur. J. Eng. Educ. 33(3), 247–257 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. J. Lucena, J. Schneider, J.A. Leydens, in Engineering and Sustainable Community Development, ed. by C. Baillie (Morgan & Claypool, San Rafael, 2010)Google Scholar
  38. A. Mathie, G. Cunningham, From Clients to Citizens: Communities Changing the Course of their Own Development (Practical Action, Warwickshire, 2008)Google Scholar
  39. D. Mosse, “People’s knowledge”, participation and patronage: operations and representations in rural development, in Participation, the New Tyranny? (Zed Books, London New York, 2001), pp. 16–35Google Scholar
  40. M.P. Nichols, The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships (Guilford, New York, 2009)Google Scholar
  41. D.F. Noble, America by Design: Science, Technology, and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism (Oxford University Press, New York, 1977)Google Scholar
  42. N. Oudshoorn, T. Pinch, in How Users Matter: The Co-Construction of Users and Technology (MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2005)Google Scholar
  43. C. Pahl-Wostl, D. Tabara, R. Bouwen, M. Craps, A. Dewulf, E. Mostert, D. Ridder, T. Taillieu, The importance of social learning and culture for sustainable water management. Ecol. Econom. 64(3), 484–495 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. A. Ramaswami, J.B. Zimmerman, J.R. Mihelcic, Integrating developed and developing world knowledge into global discussions and strategies for sustainability. 2. Economics and governance. Environ. Sci. Technol. 41(10), 3422–3430 (2007). doi:10.1021/es0603047Google Scholar
  45. L.R. Rowledge, R.S. Barton, K.S. Brady, J.A. Fava, Mapping the Journey: Case Studies in Strategy and Action Toward Sustainable Development (Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield, United Kingdom, 1999)Google Scholar
  46. L.F. Salmen, Listen to People: Participant-Observer Evaluation of Development Projects (Oxford University Press, New York, 1987)Google Scholar
  47. A. Saxenian, Silicon Valley’s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs (Public Policy Institute of California, San Francisco, 1999)Google Scholar
  48. C. Seron, S.S. Silbey, The dialectic between expert knowledge and professional discretion: accreditation, social control and the limits of instrumental logic. Eng. Stud. 1(2), 101 (2009). doi:10.1080/19378620902902351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. W. Sobkiw, Sustainable Development Possible with Creative System Engineering (CassBeth, New Jersey, 2008),
  50. S. Strasser, Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, 1995)Google Scholar
  51. R. Varma, Harbingers of Global Change: India’s Techno-Immigrants in the United States (Lexington Books, Lanham, 2006)Google Scholar
  52. World Congress on Sustainable Development–Engineering and Technological Challenges of the 21st Century, in World Congress on Sustainable Development–Engineering and Technological Challenges of the 21st Century (Tata McGraw-Hill Pub, Calcutta New Delhi, 2000)Google Scholar
  53. E.J. Yanarella, R.S. Levine, Does sustainable development lead to sustainability? Futures 24(8), 759–774 (1992). doi:10.1016/0016-3287(92)90105-OCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan C. Lucena
    • 1
  1. 1.Liberal Arts and International StudiesColorado School of MinesGolden, COUSA

Personalised recommendations