At the end of November the student teams from the University of Southampton and the University of Birmingham, along with the Cameroon Catalyst committee, attended a joint design workshop in London, hosted at WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff.
The day kicked off with introductions and presentations reiterating Cameroon Catalyst’s current water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) objectives aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. One highlight was the presentation titled ‘Life in Cameroon’ by our former intern Ant Morris. This gave a brief introduction to Cameroon, its political history, demographics and typical lifestyles in Eastern Cameroon, the area in which Cameroon Catalyst is currently focusing its efforts.
The day progressed with exercises designed to help the student teams think about interaction with communities of differing cultural backgrounds and values and to recognise the various stakeholders involved in an international development project – including the local community, other non-government organisations (NGOs) and the Government. These parties will all have different opinions and objectives which need to be understood to enable effective collaboration.
The afternoon covered the development of the design brief for the three future project workstreams – latrines, clothes washing and hand washing. The students identified similar key design considerations across all three projects – replicability, cost, ease of construction and accessibility to the end user.
The day proved hugely effective in bringing together the members of Cameroon Catalyst based across the UK, inspiring and encouraging the teams to work towards a common goal. It also reinforced the importance of having a team member permanently based in Cameroon to provide relevant and timely information and feedback to the team in the UK. As Charlotte, a member of the Birmingham committee, concludes: ‘the collaboration workshop served as a powerful reminder that cultural awareness, education and communication are the key to delivering a successful project – as well as understanding the client’s needs and resources and producing an efficient technical design’.