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Transcript: David Damberger on Learning from Failure at TEDxYYC

David Damberger

David Damberger is the founder of Engineers Without Borders Calgary (EWB). Below is the full transcript of David’s TEDx Talk titled ‘Learning from Failure’ at TEDxYYC conference.


David Damberger – Engineer, Social Entrepreneur

Meet Inook. He is a pretty happy guy. And I’d be pretty happy too if this was the first time that my community had just gained access to fresh water. Inook is from the country of Malawi, the small sliver of a country in Southern Africa, known as the warm heart of Africa.

Over the past 10 years, five million more people like Inook in Malawi have gained access to fresh water. But what’s unfortunate is that this picture is a lie. I’ll come back to that in a second.

10 years ago, two Waterloo engineers sparked a movement across Canada, “Engineers Without Borders.” This movement was based on the concept that it was completely unacceptable that 5 million people in Malawi did not have access to fresh water, when us, engineers back in Canada were working on problems such as making a photocopier increase its speed from 149 pages a minute to 151 pages per minute. We needed to work on problems that mattered.

I was fortunate that I founded the Calgary chapter here, and I got to be the first director of overseas programs for Engineers Without Borders in Africa, where I worked for 4 years, and I got to work with hundreds of businesses, non-government organizations, governments, all working in this field of development. And it was really fantastic working for Engineers Without Borders because even though we worked on hundred-million-dollar projects we had this philosophy that if we were really going to understand the problems in local Africa, we needed to live like local Africans.

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