Preparing For an Uncertain Future

Blog by Visakan Vairavamoorthy

This blog is written by Visakan Vairavamoorthy (23y) from the United Kingdom. Visakan studied Civil and Environmental Engineering in Los Angeles (University of California) and undertook an internship at KWR between November 2018 and April 2019, which he wrote about here.

I applied for an internship at KWR following my graduation from my undergraduate studies in Civil & Environmental Engineering. I chose to study civil & environmental engineering due to my interests in water and sustainability however, following my graduation, I was not sure about my next steps forward. I was conflicted on if I wanted to specialize and do a Masters or find a job related to water. I realized that I needed to get first-hand experience working with the water sector before diving into the future and thus started my search for internships. I found out about KWR through its prominence in the water sector and it sounded like a perfect opportunity for me to educate myself and get hands-on experience of how the water sector operates.

Visakan Vairavamoorthy.

My Time at KWR

While at KWR I did an internship with the Futures Research group in the Resilience Management and Governance Team (RMG). It was exciting working with Futures Research as it is a crucial area when dealing with sustainability. The context of the water sector is constantly changing and the future is becoming increasingly uncertain. As a result, environmental problems will have more devastating impacts if we are not prepared. The goal of Futures Research is to identify these emerging threats and opportunities and develop ways to respond proactively in order to be resilient.

My main project encapsulated the goals of Futures Research. It was to adapt KWR’s Dutch Water Sector Intelligence (DWSI) platform for the UK Water Sector. The DWSI platform is a Strategic Learning Alliance between members from all corners of the Dutch Water sector. It serves to inform the members about important trends within the Social, Economic, Political, Technological, Ecological or Demographical (SEPTED) dimensions and promote social co-learning between members in Think Tank sessions.

In order to get first-hand experience, I attended one of the DWSI Think Tank Sessions on the topic of Multiple Value Creation. I really saw the benefits such a Think Tank can have on changing the ways we deal with the challenges and opportunities in the water sector. In the Think Tank, water professionals provide their own unique views on issues and learn from a diversity of others through active co-learning and knowledge sharing. The participants leave with new insights and thinking that they can apply to their own organizations and better prepare for the future.

What I Learnt and Moving Forward

A key thing that I learnt from this project is that collaboration is key. Seeing people work with each other and learn from each other with a common goal was inspiring. The project taught me that we have to be willing to expose ourselves to different perspectives, ask open questions in order to broaden our vision for solutions, and we have to do all of this together.

The project also stressed the importance of an inter-disciplinary approach to solutions.  As well as collaborating and learning from each other, we need to explore solutions to water issues through the SEPTED dimensions. These dimensions are all interwoven and connected and we need to account for these relations so we can see the whole picture.

I have learnt so much from my time at KWR both from my project and my interesting interactions with other researchers here.  My internship has been key in helping me choose my path for the future.  I have decided to do a Masters and I have chosen to study the Philosophy of Science. I always wanted to learn more about the philosophical side of things but I never did out of fear of straying away from my foundation in civil engineering. Now I understand how important it is to learn about areas outside of my field of view and develop new ways of thinking that are more lateral and less vertical.  I know the new perspective and skills I’ll gain will be fundamental for my goals in working with water and sustainability in the future.

A group of water professionals brainstorming about Multiple Value Creation in the Water Sector.