This morning I went out walking with my dog Marley. When taking a turn off the beaten track, she stopped and looked at me; her head slightly tilted and question marks in her brown eyes, as if she were saying: “What are you doing? We never went this way before?” With some encouraging words she came along and enjoyed exploring the uncharted ground. We ended up finding the finest mushrooms one can think off. Autumn has started and ‘champignons treasure trophies” were around in abundance.
To avoid seeing question marks in all your eyes in the coming months, I will keep on sharing information with you regarding the different elements of the new IWA strategic plan and some of the innovative work we are developing. As mentioned in my last column, the new IWA strategy has four priority areas:
• A learning organisation for professional development
• A content developer to help accelerate change agendas
• A reliable source for developing policies and opinions
• A service provider with rewarding experiences for members, participants and partners
Now, focusing on the first priority, the IWA needs to further develop as a learning organisation. While we organise many great events and publish an array of articles and books, we need to develop dedicated mechanisms to organize and promote learning and professional updating within the IWA and the water sector at large. Building on the IWA analysis of water sector capacity gaps in lower and middle income countries, the IWA can support members and partners to create and implement (sub) national strategies for creating sector wide learning and updating. We can further develop systems and processes to support these. This can be done in various ways, for example through accreditation of professional updating, peer review of course materials or rating of training courses. At the international level, the IWA can support or lead train-the-trainers and other high-end international training initiatives. Furthermore, IWA can further develop its co-operation with a series of national and regional training institutions and co-ordinate a global network of training centres.
Mainstreaming professional updating throughout the IWA implies that the IWA Specialist Groups, IWA Member Segments and IWA Events all pick-up learning and professional updating as central to their activities. For Specialist Groups this could be done through explicitly addressing learning at SG events, developing enhanced on-line networking or setting-up a teachers/experts directory. For other IWA Events it can imply creating an even higher quality experience and incorporating learning and professional updating through dedicated (new) mechanisms (ie. webinars, on-site coaching, and speaker training). All in all, we have a wide range of possibilities for the IWA to develop as a learning organisation.
While we are developing the new IWA strategy, we are also exploring some of the new areas for the IWA to focus on. For example, during the last months, we organised several workshops and sessions at various events to discuss the complex interactions between Water, Food and Energy and the linkages to cities, industry and the environment. The linkages between these spheres are becoming more and more a constraint for energy and food production, the availability of water for other uses and ecosystem health. During the IWA Development Congress a number of participants from universities, NGOs and consultancy companies presented insightful new analysis and practical solutions to optimizing water use across the “Water, Food and Energy nexus”. Early next year, a third workshop will be organised in Bangkok to bring together actors to look into solutions for complex Asian situations. Working on practical solutions for optimizing the linkages between water, energy, food, cities and industries, while investing in the environment, is increasingly an important focus for the IWA’s work.
An important dimension of the new strategy will be to work with new partners. We have started to do so, for example through our engagement in the preparation for the 7th World Water Forum (Daeigu,Korea) in April 2015. The IWA, together with our Korean colleagues, are leading the work on “Science, Technology and Innovation” in the water sector. The idea is to bring new insights to the fore on how to accelerate innovation in the water sector building on the latest scientific findings and new technology developments. The initiative will also shed light on the institutional set-up and incentives to speed up water transitions. You will soon be given the opportunity to participate in the process and to make your expertise and know how available to accelerate innovations in the water sector.
During the IWA Governing Assembly in September, the IWA Governing members had the opportunity to provide input into the development of the IWA Strategic Plan 2014 – 2018. Through a series of interactive sessions they reflected on a range of topics that underpin the development of the strategic plan. Over the last months, I have received many encouraging comments and suggestions on the way forward for the IWA. I am sure that many of you have ideas how to do this too. To ensure your ideas are taken into account, I invite you to participate in the consultation that is now on-line. Your response to the questionnaire and written comments will help to inform the priority setting of your association.
As the IWA is an association not only for its members but most importantly by its members, your input, ideas, passion and energy are at the heart of the development of the IWA in the coming years. It is only through our collective search of the beaten track that we will find our ‘treasure trophies’ for inspiring change in the years ahead.