Equity and Social Impact

Relevant publications:


Social Impact defined:

The net effects an organization, business or project can have on a community’s well-being, that may also address a social challenge or inequity. Areas of social impact inlclude: employment, education, physical and mental wellbeing, physical and emotional safety, social inclusion and connection, housing, social equity, accessibility.

Decolonizing Project Delivery

Decolonizing engineering project delivery involves examining methods that include Indigenous perspectives, values and world views in engineering projects. Current project procurement and delivery methods primarily promote Eurocentric values and rarely embrace Indigenous ways of knowing, even when the projects are intended to serve Indigenous communities or impact a community’s existing or asserted Aboriginal rights. Understanding and challenging methods that are a legacy of settler colonial mindsets requires stretching western concepts of design constraints to include Indigenous relationships to the land, air, water, and non-human kin. 

Many organizations are motivated and sincere in their efforts to modify their practices to reflect historic discrimination and racism that continue to impact communities and how organizations do this is central to the research. The research looks closely at two organizations, the City of Vancouver and the University of British Columbia, with additional examples of exemplar projects from other areas of the country.

The organizations are applying different strategies to integrating local Indigenous ways of knowing into their projects. One includes Decolonization and Indigenous Perspectives workshops to help prepare their design teams for the task of including Indigenous design principles, while the other organization is developing a method of engagement with their host nation that builds off previous engagement processes and other cultural resources to reduce the individual demands on the partner nation. 

The organizations’ goal is to improve project outcomes from all perspectives, and in doing so, contribute to advancing reconciliation. Because of the diversity of Indigenous cultures in Canada, lessons learned cannot be simply duplicated in other projects and contexts, but rather evaluated for commonalities and approaches that assist in designing delivery methods for other projects.

Social Procurement

Social procurement is the practice of using existing purchasing power to generate positive social, economic and environmental impacts for the local community and economy. This can be  done by procuring from social impact organizations and equity seeking businesses, or by embedding desired social impacts into standard tendering documents. 

Social procurement offers the possibility of addressing existing issues in the construction industry. For example, it is a strategy that could be used to solve skilled trade labour shortages by training and employing equity-seeking groups who are underrepresented in the industry. 

See BuySocial Canada’s website for more information

See Chandos’s website for a leading example on social procurement in Canada’s construction industry

The BIM TOPiCS lab is looking for new students to pursue further research on this topic. Contact us if you have the relevant skills and interest.