Creating Our Future Water Workplace Together in the New Waves Festival

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We took a step together in Brussels toward designing the future of the water sector on 16 June in our New Waves Festival 2022. This hybrid event, a partnership with AquaFedDe Watergroep, EJWP, the SMARTEN project and Water Europe was aimed at facilitating a co-creative space for collaboration and creativity, to establish ways forward in the water sector as well as form new networks and paths for development. 

The festival, held live at the NH Hotel Brussels and online, was unique in a few aspects: It was a planned part of training weeks of EJWP groups 2 and 3; an official side event of Water Innovation Europe 2022 of Water Europe, and a part of partner organizations’ community activities including on social media. Some 40 participants of various ages and levels in the water sector contributed their expertise on the future in the afternoon event that was led by EJWP Director Naomi Timmer.  

The topic of New Waves 2022 was “The Future Workplace of European water,” and was built around three core questions: 

  • How can we integrate personal career paths and organization strategies with transformations of the future water sector workplace?  
  • What new approaches can we bring to trends in digitalization to collaborate more effectively at a global level?  
  • How can we break out of the water “bubble” for improved synergies on climate and environmental challenges? 

These questions were brainstormed upon in the live setting with support of the MIRO platform for collaboration, and online supported with interactive HowSpace questions and input. Ideas were brought forward by attendees including EJWP participants and other young professionals from the European water sector, and co-creators. These observations and suggestions were highlighted in the collaboration tools for further development, resulting in a structured exchange that enabled all voices in the room to be heard and considered.  

See the full online report from the New Waves Festival 2022. 

Co-creator Leaders in the Festival presented 2-minute topic pitches to help spark the exchange: 

  • Zakhar Maletskyi, NMBU/ SMARTEN, Norway – Digitalization  
  • Maria Cristina Pasi, IZAR, Italy – New Governance Model  
  • Cristian Carboni, Industrie De Nora S.p.a., Italy – Leadership  
  • Richard Elelman, EURECAT, Spain – NEXUS and Citizen Engagement  
  • Louise Vanysacker, De Watergroep, Belgium – Happy & Healthy Workplace  
  • Neil Dhot, AquaFed, France – Career Paths  
  • Durk Krol, Water Europe, Belgium – Needs throughout the value chain 

I am really happy to have participated as a Co-Creator in the New Waves Festival 2022 with the EJWP participants. I had the opportunity to discuss with many people of different ages and experiences on issues of the leadership necessary for the water world. Old ways of working may not provide new answers for emerging water issues which require fresh and dynamic leadership…The leadership in water sector must be redefined and re-energized! We must be able to involve all the stakeholders, arriving at a global and collective vision and awareness through innovative and effective ways of communication and education. Every person counts and every drop counts,” said Cristian Carboni about co-creation in the festival. 

The interactive festival was set up with two main rounds. The first round focused on creating a vision of what the future could (and should) look like, and what actions are needed to achieve the vision. The second round zoomed in closer on the actions and plans of making a good future vision into a reality. Participants were asked to share their input on the Who, What, When and Where elements of what they expect to achieve in a) the near-term during 2022, b) in the next 12 months, c) and a long-term forecast going up to 2050. 

Takeaways of the festival 

Results from the New Waves interactions will be further developed in upcoming platforms including in an EJWP2 follow-up project on the water sector future, Water Europe Human Capital Working Group, the SMARTEN project, and the Value of Water initiative. Input from these platforms can be further developed for contributions to larger meetings such as the UN 2023 Water Conference. 

Takeaways for further development included: 

There is a gap between policy and actions in the addressed topics. Limitations do exist across the value chain which hinder the change and the forward thinking in the water sector.  

The water sector needs to reskill and upskill its workforce mainly in the domain of digitalization. But first, it needs to identify the needs and relevant skills. 

Quantification is required to measure the impacts and thresholds, so we need to develop associated metrics and other parameters.  

There is no water crisis but there is a “management crisis,” and here comes the role of young water professionals in bringing innovative and out-of-the-box solutions. Thus, this sector should support change of professional culture.  

Support young people in mentorship activities, matching them to a senior official with whom to interact. Young people can also support their mentor with their innovative ideas. 

Look at collaboration and involvement also in different calls for new forms of communication. Use new forms of communication: podcasts, social media, information channels on the internet, games, storytelling, videos, to make communication on water issues more effective and at the “street” or mass level. 

Recognize needed upgrades of current infrastructure and incorporate more Green technology and skills. 

The SMARTEN project in New Waves 

The SMARTEN project as a partner in the festival presented digitalization and serious games as developed so far in SMARTEN into the needed elements of a future-proof workplace of European water, with an intergenerational approach combining lifelong learning.  

SMARTEN was presented with the topic “Towards Digital Water” by Dr. Zakhar Maletskyi through concepts integrating digitalization in water sector workplaces and advance training that is needed – and will be needed – to adapt to required skill levels. New equipment and materials resulting from innovations in the sector were also considered. Participants and co-creators compiled responses to these future situations, as well as projected skills shortages in the sector. 

“This event was quite an experience for me, as I was able to be physically present and still able to interact with our online participants – to brainstorm and collaborate with them. This was actually a demonstration of the role of digitalization in achieving higher and more efficient engagement as well as sharing knowledge,” said Rasha Hassan, Co-coordinator of the festival and Project Officer for the SMARTEN project and H2O People. 

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