Our talk with George Roter: 4 questions with the CEO of Engineers Without Borders Canada

George Roter, CEO and co-founder of Engineers Without Borders Canada. (Photo from www.ewb.ca)

George Roter, CEO and co-founder of Engineers Without Borders Canada (photo from ewb.ca).

Our relationship with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is going on its eighth year. CEPA donates the proceeds from events like our Annual Golf Tournament and Year-End Dinner to the non-profit organization.

At the helm of EWB Canada is its passionate CEO and co-founder, George Roter. The Montreal native took a few minutes to talk to us about EWB’s relationship with CEPA and about what EWB is doing to foster innovation and eliminate global poverty.

1. If you had to describe Engineers Without Borders in two sentences, what would those two sentences be?

What we are focused on is accelerating the end of global poverty and inequity. The way we are driving that is by sparking innovations that address root-cause issues and finding ways for those innovations to scale so that they can be disproportionately impactful on addressing global-poverty issues.

2. What exactly is the relationship between CEPA and Engineers Without Borders Canada?

The neat thing with CEPA is that it goes beyond just that donor relationship. It’s a budding partnership in that we are developing other ways to work together, so we’re able to participate in one another’s events and contribute to each other’s dialogues on particular issues. For example, a year ago we jointly held a session with business and non-profit leaders in Calgary on what the millennial workforce is interested in and how they become engaged in broad issues.

3. Why does the relationship between CEPA and Engineers Without Borders make sense?

Innovations. (Both are thinking about) how innovations sit within society, how they interact within society and how they produce a broad sense of value and a broad sense of benefit when they’re implemented. That, to me, is really the heart of where EWB and CEPA are very well aligned.

One of the things I have been most impressed with both CEPA, and with CEPA’s member organizations, is the fact that similar to Engineers Without Borders ­– regardless of any controversy that’s out there right now with pipeline companies – my experience is that they do and they have to think about communities.

A pipeline passes through hundreds of jurisdictions. With Engineers Without Borders, any one of our volunteers would say that a local government in Ghana or Malawi that is working on water issues and water systems interacts with hundreds of individual communities and “stakeholders.” But of course, they’re not stakeholders; they’re citizens who want better for their families and who want a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. I believe that CEPA understands that, and my experience suggests that the leaders of many of CEPA’s member companies do as well.

4. What are some ventures that CEPA (through its donations) is helping support?

  • Work in Canada around engineering education and supporting the development of engineers who have a broader set of skills and a broader view of the world (read more about this venture here).
  • In Ghana, supporting agricultural college leaders to develop curriculum and teaching methods that will help students become agricultural entrepreneurs (read more about this venture here).

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2012, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.