On 12 April 2017, the Observant in Amersfoort was filled with practice innovators, researchers and decision-makers committed to the creation of sustainable and resilient cities, cities that are ready for the future. This knowledge workplace of the Water Knowledge Action Programme is the first step towards a more structured knowledge exchange among various experts, (end-) users and other stakeholders. Within the Water Knowledge Action Programme, KWR carries out research on the theme of water in the circular city of the future, in collaboration with different universities and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions. Our preliminary studies showed that achieving more sustainable and resilient cities requires a better understanding of the governance of technical innovations. What needs to be done in the areas of management, policy and knowledge to ensure that promising techniques – from pilot projects, for instance – can actually make a contribution to the circular city?
Jointly innovating organisation
Managers, practice innovators and researchers want cities to be sustainable and resilient. They all try, in their own ways, to prepare cities for the predicted changes. Changes in climate, demographics, technologies and the economy are constantly throwing up new challenges. Pilot projects, in turn, show us new techniques, including decentralised and circular solutions. But is this knowledge in fact usable in other places and in other situations? Who is responsible for the next steps? Do these new developments clash with current laws and regulations? There is no existing entity that can organise cities in a more circular manner for purposes of recovering energy and resources, preserving value and promoting city resilience. Collaboration is essential, since the challenges and solutions cross organisational and sectoral boundaries. The Water Knowledge Action Programme brings together the relevant parties to jointly develop new knowledge, share responsibilities and implement actions.
Results of the first knowledge workplace
The Water Knowledge Action Programme is no desk exercise. The knowledge development does not take place in a library or lab, but ‘in the field’, as in this first knowledge workplace for instance. The goal is not only to get a better grasp of the water or knowledge system, but to actually make it better. The researchers, policy-makers and practice innovators who participated in this first knowledge workplace quickly came to the conclusion that we can’t draw on existing techniques to shape the solutions for the future. At this point, the most important challenge is to distribute the new risks and responsibilities between the existing parties and any that probably still need to be formed. Only after clear agreements have been reached in this regard, will cities be able to create the space in which innovations in the areas of water, energy, food and climate-adaptation can go beyond pilot projects and mean something for the cities as a whole. To reach these agreements, we must first gain a better understanding of the future scenarios of the different players, make the knowledge exchange and development more relevant, and dare to raise questions about the existing distribution of risks and responsibilities.
Last Wednesday’s knowledge workplace was the first in a series. It is not simply a matter of talking. On the basis of multidisciplinary research, the Knowledge Action Programme develops ‘prototypes’ of solution paths and then tests them in practice. On 19 June, we’ll be holding our second knowledge workplace at Pakhuis de Zwijger, where the General Board of the Regional Public Water Authority Amstel, Gooi en Vecht will also take part. All parties active in the field of water in the circular city will be more than welcome. Follow the developments on the programme’s website: kennisactiewater.nl.