Symposium 7: WASHing away inequalities 

Mexico City, Mexico, 29-31 May 

The seventh Royal Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering for Development symposium took place in Mexico City, Mexico from 29 -31 May 2019. This event was organised in partnership with Fomento Mexicano and was the first symposium under the overarching theme 'From Recovery to Resilience'.

The symposium focused on how resilient and robust systems and innovative solutions in the water, sanitation and hygiene field can help tackle inequalities. 

Symposium Goal

Symposium participants take turns to introduce themselvesThe goal of the two-and-a-half day symposium was to introduce outstanding researchers and innovators (aproximately 0-20 years post-doc, or equivalent experience in industry) to each other, and through this interaction facilitate collaboration in engineering for development, the transfer of new techniques and approaches across disciplinary boundaries and the establishment of contacts among the next generation of engineering leaders.


Symposium Format

Participants play team-building and problem-solving gamesThe event was made up of three multidisciplinary and interactive workshop-style sessions that explored the overall theme of WASHing away inequalities

Each session focused on a sub-topic of the overarching theme, with relevant experts chairing the sessions to lead discussions. The sub-themes were:

  • Infrastructure: What is the best way to optimise resources and to ensure resilient systems?
  • Design: Can creative design help water and sanitation engineering?
  • Implementation: How can we reconcile communal elements of WASH services with personal preferences and needs?

To ensure there is a balance of formal and informal networking opportunities, social activities were organised. 

Participants enjoying a cruise down the river Thames Participants present their ideas to the group


Event Chairs 

Professor Barbara Evans, University of Leeds 

Professor Barbara Evans holds the chair in Public Health Engineering in the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Leeds. Her research activities centre on sanitation, hygiene and water services in the global south. Professor Evans’ research includes sanitation in low income urban communities, rural sanitation and water/sanitation in cities and towns. 

After graduating from Leeds with a BEng (Hons) in Civil Engineering (1987) Professor Evans worked for Sir M MacDonald and partners for seven years, primarily in Sudan, Pakistan and India and gained experience in rural drainage, irrigation, flood management and sanitation and qualified as a chartered engineer (CEng). In 1994 she won a scholarship to study for an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Ecnomics, passing with distinction in 1995. Her studies focused on the political economy of urban sanitation for poor and marginalised communities. Thereafter she worked at the World Bank Water and Sanitation Programme for seven years and was responsible for a regional programme of support to government and civil society in South Asia, delivering capacity building, research and programme support in urban basic services.

After leaving the Bank in 2002 Barbara worked as an independent consultant, working with UNICEF, the World Bank, the World Health Organisation, WaterAid, and for the governments of Vietnam, Bolivia and Bangladesh. She was also active and instrumental in delivery of several regional ministerial sanitation conferences.

Dr Darren Saywell, AECOM

Dr. Darren Saywell is an internationally recognized Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) expert with 25 years of experience in international operations, consulting, policy, practice, research and advisory work in water supply, sanitation and hygiene. Dr. Saywell’s technical background and expertise specializes in water supply, sanitation and wastewater management within a framework of integrated water management.

As AECOM’s Director of Water Services, he manages large USAID contracts worldwide, leads business development capture processes for the water sector and coordinates the Environment & Infrastructure Practice approach to thought leadership and knowledge management.



On the final day of the event, there was a presentation on how to apply for seed funding. Further information on the application process can be found here and the awarded projects are listed in the 'Current and recent awards' section.