During the summer of 2009 we invited our membership and other stakeholders across Canada as well as our volunteer-staff in Africa to contribute to discussions around EWB’s values and beliefs. Over 250 people gathered in dozens of groups and shared their thoughts and ideas. The input was compiled, refined and articulated into a final list of values and beliefs!! For the first time in years, Engineers Without Borders has a direction that is true to who we are, true to what we do, and true to what we want to accomplish.


EWB’s Beliefs

Injustice must be confronted, and dignity promoted: We believe that change happens when ordinary people stand up to the injustices they see in the world, and fight for the dignity of human beings who they may have never met before, because they are human beings. “What begins with the failure to uphold the dignity of one life all too often ends with calamity for all” – Kofi Annan

Exceptional people, working together, catalyzing systemic change: We believe that by enabling leaders in multiple countries, organisations and roles, we will be able to amplify the impact of any individual. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead

Human development is messy, simple solutions are rare: We believe that the complexity of human development pushes us to work through ambiguity, balancing multiple tensions simultaneously and knowing that attribution will be difficult, if not impossible. This level of complexity requires more thought, energy, and commitment. “A wide range of factors come together to make the whole more than the sum of its parts, enhancing the ability of local institutions to manage internal dilemmas and respond to shifts in the external environment, both of which are changing continuously.” – Michael Edwards

Socially minded engineers bring great value: We believe in an engineering profession that is better aware of its potential for positive impact on the world, and is better equipped to bring about that change. “In today’s interconnected and most complicated world, we need to confirm the raison d’etre of the engineering profession, which is to adapt science to the benefit of all Humankind” – Kamel Ayadi


EWB’s Values


Accountability: Great Ideas from the workshop at 2011 Conference titled “Holding ourselves accountable to our Values”

Address root causes for impact: We start by clearly defining the impact that we want to help bring about, and then think through the complexity of social change so that our actions target root causes.

Strive for Humility: We learn by being open – open to new ideas from anywhere and anyone, and open about our mistakes.

Invest in people: We know that true change will require a movement of socially-minded leaders. We support and invest in each other to help build this movement together.

Courageously Commit: All change begins within ourselves. We commit to personal growth through regular self-assessment and have the courage to ask for feedback.

Ask tough questions: We only improve when we ask tough questions about our past, present, and future work to determine if we are having the maximum impact for Dorothy.

Dream Big & Work Hard: We strive to make the impossible possible, through a combination imagination, hard work, innovation, passion and a willingness to take risks.

Our Bottom Line: We Put Dorothy First

  • We strive to do what she would advise us to.
  • We help bring her voice into the rooms where she needs to be heard.
  • We stay independent to be able to stay true to her interests.


We put Dorothy first. But who is Dorothy?

Dorothy is our boss. She is the one to whom we ultimately report to, and she is the one with whom we partner and work beside. There is one stakeholder who must always come first: the people in the developing communities with whom and for whom we work. The name ‘Dorothy’ personifies the “stakeholder who must always come first.”

Dorothy represents a development worker that EWB met in our work overseas. We came to see her as a representative of the people with whom and for whom we work. She represents the poor women and men who struggle every day within a cycle of poverty and vulnerability to make positive change for themselves, their families, their communities and the world.

EWB understands the heterogeneity of developing communities, and does not try to represent this reality in the person of ‘Dorothy’. Dorothy is instead a reminder to us of those caught in a cycle of poverty. When we have to make a tough decision or plan, both in Canada and in Africa, we try to step back for a moment, and ask ourselves “What would Dorothy think? If we could explain the challenges and tradeoffs of our potential action or inaction, what would she want us to do?”

We feel that everyone involved in human development, and everyone passionate about helping to build a better world will be faced with tough decisions and trade-offs in their personal and professional lives. Keeping someone like “Dorothy” in mind helps keep us focused on the impact of our decisions.

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