Collaborating to create the world's Tomorrow Makers
In my first job as a fresh young environmental planner, an experienced engineer took me aside and told me ‘you need to understand, there are two things that all engineers like to do: build things using other people’s money, and solve big problems’.
His matter of fact statement has stuck with me over the years, and when I was introduced to Forum’s Engineers for the 21st Century programme it made perfect sense. Climate change is the biggest problem we have faced as a global community, so let’s get some inherent ‘problem solvers’ on the job.
Our Engineers of the 21st Century programme has been running since 1999, with two core objectives: to get sustainability embedded into the engineering profession and to help younger engineers develop their own skills and understanding in sustainability.
Throughout these 14 years we have continually changed how the programme works, to reflect the maturity of the industry and to keep the pressure on the need for change. Once again, we are having a refresh to keep you all on your toes, and the programme is now being broadened out to all sectors and professions with a new name – Tomorrow Makers. The programme offers a tried and tested way for organisations to work together through a method of collaborative innovation. We have been using this method for 5 years within the engineering sector, and now we want to use the process to help other sectors get involved.
Since this process has evolved from the E21C programme, let’s first reflect on how we got here:
- In 1999, the original Inquiry brought together 43 engineers from 18 major companies to set out and communicate the need for change within the profession. This was a high profile event hosted by the then DTI, receiving much support from industry.
- In 2002, 12 companies nominated another 12 young engineers to review the change, and communicate the further need for action.
- In 2005 we changed our approach and started working with young engineers to carry out projects looking at why change wasn’t happening fast enough, suggesting solutions for their organisations.
- In 2008 we upped the ante making all projects multi-organisational with more ambitious objectives, and setting up steering groups of senior managers to bring a much stronger link back to the organisations involved.
- Since then we have worked with a range of organisations on five major collaborative projects, which have helped change the way engineers work. You can read more about these here.
All these changes have meant that we have been able to continually push organisations to work in new ways, and to drive their own level of ambition. What we provide now is an opportunity for organisations to work together on the problems that are too big to tackle alone. We provide a format that makes collaboration easy to do, with project outcomes that are shared, innovative and new. And at the same time, the process provides a unique opportunity for middle career employees to develop their own skills and thinking and to get their ideas out into practice.
And now we want to try this out in other sectors, either in multi-sector groups, or in completely new systems. We want to mix up professions, getting problems solvers to work with creative and practical skills. So if you are interested in working with other people and organisations to develop some fresh research, or if you have been wondering how to tackle a really tricky sustainability challenge that goes far beyond the boundaries of your organisation alone – then please get in touch. Tomorrow Makers could be the answer!