Multination Research Programmes: The UNESCO UNITWIN in Humanitarian Engineering Outreach Case Study

This paper describes the building of partnerships involving multiple nations through the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's university twinning and networking scheme (UNESCO UNITWIN) in Humanitarian Engineering. The originators of the UNESCO UNITWIN span the globe: the network's coordinator is Coventy University, based in the UK, and is supported by the Institute of Accountancy Arusha, Tanzania; the University of Malta and Massey University in New Zealand. The main objectives of the UNESCO UNITWIN is to promote an integrated system of research, training and information on humanitarian engineering and to enhance cross-cultural learning and sharing. We believe that humanitarian engineering is about having a forward thinking view: investing in what adds value to society, looking at how to use our engineering capability to apply technology appropriately into communites' self-identified needs. This paper reviews how the UNESCO UNITWIN was formed and describes a case study of an outreach programme; addressing one of the network's goals to raise public awareness about how engineering can help society. Using these two 'lenses' we highlight the challenges of partnering with multiple nations using documented theories of transdisciplinary working. Challenges such as inexperience and communicating over large time-zone differences replicates what other transdisciplinary programmes experience. What we have learnt is that knowledge about multination collaboration is tacit. The challenge for the engineering education community is to make this knowledge explict so that we can equip ourselves and the next generation of engineers to effectively practice across disciplines and cultures.