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For many of us, we have been conditioned from early on to sport our horse-blinders and look solely towards success – we view a deviation from the so-called ‘path of perfection’ as unacceptable. And in spite of the record showing some of humankind’s greatest academic, cultural and material achievements having come about about after iterations of repeated failure or mistakes, the negative stigma associated with failure persists. J.K. Rowling, no stranger to failure herself, rightly pointed out in her speech, “Fringe Benefits of Failure,” that “[s]ome failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”

The Engineers Without Borders Failure Report is now in its ninth year of production. It serves to make transparent some of the failures experienced at all levels of the organization, both at home and abroad. In this year’s edition, eleven stories and a forward from the Hon. Bob Rae offer insight into individual and systemic failures that occurred over the previous year, and lessons learned from each case. It is our hope that our readers – you – may gain inspiration from the stories and learn how to identify failures in your team, and also better appreciate the thought process behind identifying root causes as the first step to fixing them.

This report would not have been possible without the generous and valuable assistance from a number of people. Ashley Good has been working with the Failure Report team since its humble beginnings in 2008. Her thoughtful and measured advice was always welcome and appreciated, and we owe her an immense debt of gratitude. As former editors themselves, Quinn Conlon and Christine Pu provided generous support and advice to our editorial team. We thank them for their frank opinions, editorial suggestions and undying enthusiasm for the report and our team. Finally, our deepest gratitude goes out to the authors of the reports and stories found within. Failure is difficult to admit, especially in a public forum like this report. We applaud all of our authors’ courage to help us continue a conversation that is as much needed today as it was nine years ago when we launched our inaugural failure report – a conversation that seeks to broaden the acceptance of failure as a learning tool.

To our readers: we invite you to explore the humble admissions made in the following stories with an open mind. We hope you will learn about the value of failure just as much as we have, and will go forward with a broader acceptance of it in your own life. Here’s to #failingforward.

Happy reading,
Anthony Hope, Nikko Ong and David Boroto
2016 Failure Report Editorial Team


Getting to 30,000
Struggling with how we define Systems Change Leadership, and other failures from EWB’s staff.
Read More >>


Poorly Promoted Pints
Why the University of Regina’s sure-fire fundraiser didn’t hit its target.
Read More >>

Fellowship Failureship
From assumptions about the Canadian Junior Fellowship to a relationship without trust.
Read More >>

Scale Fail
How BDSA-Zambia’s model hurt their ability to spread.
Read More >>

RonanOOur Failures in 2016