EWB Resources

sociocultural factors

EWB believes that self-awareness and empathy are two skills essential to the development practitioner, as well as all current and future engineers. Self-awareness relates to an understanding of ourselves in relation to the world, whereas empathy refers to our capacity to understand others. Both of these can be considered in terms of socio-cultural influencers. 


What are sociocultural factors?

Our perception of the world is deeply influenced by sociocultural factors that we may or may not (as is often the case!) be aware of. Sociocultural factors are the beliefs, customs and practices within cultures and societies that affect the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of its citizens (9). Examples of these cultural aspects include concepts of beauty, religious beliefs, material culture, attitudes, role of the family, societal status and perception of time. These factors will alter our priorities and can be the root cause of misunderstandings between cross-cultural groups. An understanding of these factors can be applied in the psychology, design, marketing, business and health professions.


How do sociocultural factors apply to my EWB Challenge design?

Within your design teams you may want to identify and map the sociocultural values you hold as individuals and as a team. Being aware of your biases, based on your sociocultural identity, is important to understand how they influence your designs and approach toward your design opportunity. Conversely, you should attempt to understand as much about the cultural identity of the community to appropriately inform your design. 


How can I learn more?

For more about how you may practically consider these factors you can refer to Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory.


“I was expecting to learn a lot about community members, and I did. What I didn't expect is just how much I'd learn about myself. Once everything that was familiar and commonplace became foreign, it offered me a whole new perspective on my own culture, society and even myself. I tried to go over with a pretty open mind and I'm glad I did, because any expectations or preconceived ideas I could've had would've been obliterated anyway. Like our facilitators said, normal things like our assumed solutions to a problem or even what is considered a "normal" use of technology can become pretty strange pretty quick.” - Humanitarian Design Summit Participant, Cambodia February 2016