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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Performance measurement of engineering projects in the humanitarian aid sector

Charlie Dalrymple

Performance measurement of engineering projects in the humanitarian aid sector

 Every year around $60 billion is allocated to aid around the world, a considerable proportion of which is used by engineers and engineering projects. Justified commendation of the successes achieved by such projects is tempered by a significant degree of criticism. A seemingly disproportionate input of funds and resources results in only short-term respite, sporadic coverage or inappropriate and often socially detrimental materials and technologies delivered to the affected population. The sector itself pays extensive attention to such weaknesses through a substantial framework, and considerable investment, in evaluation and performance management. This work is motivated by a personal belief that such performance management offers a defendable pathway for engineers and evaluators to provide solutions that continually drive improvement.

This report recognises the difficult environment in which aid operates as well as the complicated structure of aid delivery itself. It considers additional contextual influences such as geo-politics and addresses strong arguments against aid.
The main body of research comprises two parts, examining project delivery and evaluation. Current weaknesses in project delivery are investigated and discussed including: Preparedness; Participation and Coping Strategies; Engineering Standards; Relief and Rehabilitation; Gender Focus, Targeting and Coverage; Coordination; and Effectiveness. The evaluation of reports is examined in terms of purpose, theory and method. The relationship between accountability and learning is given particular attention. Details of measurements through indicators are linked to subsequent understanding through causal attribution and process linkage. Evaluator skills and quality of evaluation are regarded as important holistic influences.   

Extensive analExtensive analysis of these two streams of research identifies a distinct correlation between evaluation and delivery. As a result several conclusions are drawn regarding potential improvement in both project delivery and the role of evaluation to that end. To validate these, ideas for potential methods of improvement are generated and examined in relation to recent evaluation reports.
The importance The importance of cyclical performance management is demonstrated as are hard and soft issues surrounding the infrastructure for effective knowledge transfer. A method of incorporating learning into accountability is proposed along with the use of process mapping to assist in identifying links between inputs and outcomes and to focus on areas of strength and weakness in projects.

Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.