Year Review 2021

Co-makership: jointly creating, sharing and implementing knowledge

KWR brings water professionals and water scientists closer together

KWR develops knowledge through which the water sector can achieve its objectives as sustainably as possible, and helps to implement this knowledge in practice. We most prefer to do this in the form of ‘co-makership’: in close collaboration with clients and research partners through all phases of the research process. Together, we jointly articulate the research questions, and together we conduct the research and apply the results in practice. ‘It always starts by bringing the right parties into contact,’ says Jolijn van Engelenburg, programme manager of the Joint Research Programme of KWR and the water utilities. ‘Another key element is to have a clear idea of what all the parties need, or what they can indeed offer each other,’ adds Raül Glotzbach of Watershare.

Scientists and water sector professionals do not necessarily speak the same language. A translation process is often needed for an effective connection. Jolijn van Engelenburg is one of the people at KWR who operates most of the time in this border area between water professionals and water scientists. She is programme manager of the Joint Research Programme which KWR carries out for and with the water utilities. In doing so, she draws on the experience she built up as both a water professional and as a water scientist. Van Engelenburg: ‘I see my principal task as bringing people together. Currently, our main focus is on seeking connections to further disseminate the Joint Research Programme results. My experience as a professional at a water utility was that the results of the programme’s projects did not always go beyond the professionals in the supervising theme groups. This is why I always ask that attention be given to the wider sharing of that knowledge within each utility. To do this effectively, we need to speak the language of both water professionals and of the water scientists.’

Knowledge cycle and co-makership

KWR conducts its research following a knowledge cycle. Co-makership, in which one goes through the cycle jointly with partners, is an essential component.

  1. Articulate what knowledge is needed for operational practice. What do we want to know?
  2. Set the subject on your own agenda, and possibly also on the agendas of other stakeholders. What are we going to do first? Who should we also interest in this research subject?
  3. Collect the existing knowledge and conduct research to fill knowledge gaps.
  4. Transfer this new knowledge to users, and help them implement it in practice.
  5. Help them create economic and/or societal value with the new knowledge. In principle, KWR aims, in every step of this process, to also include future users of the knowledge. This increases the chance of producing results that can be effectively implemented in their practice.

Networking and intranetting

In 2021 a variety of new initiatives were taken to improve the dissemination of this knowledge. Van Engelenburg: ‘We are now working together with a number of water utilities to also draw attention to the results of Joint Research Programme projects in the utilities’ intranets, in a form that could mean something to people. We hope in this way to increase the uptake of the new knowledge. Another important element in the dissemination of knowledge is that people know how to reach each other, that knowledge users and scientists network with each other. Today we hear, particularly from young professionals at the water utilities and young scientists at KWR, that there is a need to develop a network within which to share experiences with other young professionals and scientists in the drinking water world and the water sector. We are therefore doing our utmost to bring people together. For example, in 2021 we welcomed Dunea and Jong Vitens to the ‘Early Career Network’ of young KWR scientists. And there is now interest in GRROW, an exploratory Joint Research Programme project in which young scientists and drinking water professionals reflect on the drinking water sector in 2070.’


Raül Glotzbach is a scientific researcher at KWR, whose efforts are directed, among other things, to the growth of Watershare  into an international knowledge sharing community. ‘Within Watershare, under the motto “Global expertise for local water challenges”, we also bring people together, professionals and scientists.  We are building a worldwide network around five strong “regional” hubs: Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, Lower Danube River Basin and, in Western Europe, a hub around the Netherlands and Flanders, led by KWR. We want within Watershare to gain an even better understanding of what our partners are seeking precisely, what knowledge needs they have, and what they actually have to offer others. In this way, we want to be able to bring together parties who can assist each other in reaching the right, practically implementable, answers. I also see this as an opportunity for the leaders of the Watershare hubs to point to the paths connecting partners within Watershare, as matchmakers and knowledge brokers.’

Joint Research Programme and Watershare Webinars

In 2021 Watershare and the Joint Research Programme joined forces to help their partners share new insights and experiences with each other. They organised a series of webinars under the title ‘Sharing International Experiences on Water Supply’. Various current challenges confronting the water sector were discussed, ranging from climate change to population growth and increased economic activity. Glotzbach: ‘The webinars always dealt with a topical theme, about which experts from the Joint Research Programme and Watershare, among others, expressed themselves. The aim was to learn from each other’s experience. Since the webinars are online, we can bring people into contact with each other more and more easily. And internationally, too. We certainly want to continue with this online approach.’ The first webinar was held in November and had to do with water reuse and alternative sources; the second, in December, dealt with digitalisation in the water sector. There have so far been six webinars, and all counted 30 to 40 participants.’ Van Engelenburg: ‘By discussing cases from water utilities and from abroad, we offer new perspectives and possible solutions. With this approach, the webinars are of interest both for water practice and for research.’