GRROW lab invites young and experienced water professionals to engage in dialogue

Rethinking existing paradigms creates space for alternative scenarios

Young water professionals are bursting with energy and new ideas. The water world, which is becoming increasingly complex and demanding, can benefit. The new GRROW lab project, which is a part of the Joint Research Programme of KWR and the drinking water utilities (BTO), has been established to involve young professionals in a structured way in discussions about leading paradigms in the drinking water sector, connect them with other professionals in the sector, and introduce them to research and strategy development.

The GRROW lab project emerged from the earlier, successful, GRROW (Generational and Radical Rethinking of the Water Sector) project, in which young researchers and drinking water professionals worked on scenarios for the future of the drinking water sector. The 29-year-old researcher Janine de Wit, who works at KWR, participated in GRROW and was inspired by it. She is now a team member of the follow-up project and hopes to see more input for the intergenerational dialogue. “It is tremendously motivating to think outside the box, to generate new ideas. We also want to learn from experienced water professionals. Just pluck up your courage to go to a director and ask what’s going on. We need to know what works well in the water world, what doesn’t, and why. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.”

Sharing knowledge and ideas

What shape will the drinking water chain take in 2070? What needs to change and what do we actually want to keep? These are questions at the heart of the GRROW lab project. By rethinking current systems, we collectively design possible alternative scenarios for that future. “We use the method that was developed in GRROW,” says De Wit. “We go through the steps of identifying, reconsidering, designing and interpreting. That approach works very well to share knowledge and ideas between generations.”

Figure 1. The approach used in the GRROW lab that was developed in the GRROW project

Talking with all drinking water utilities

The components of the GRROW lab consist of an inspiration and atelier workshop, with a final conference that will be open to all. A network day will also be organised for young drinking water professionals. De Wit believes it is important for people of her age to get on board with the project because it will expand their horizon enormously. “I myself work a lot on projects relating to freshwater availability,” she says. “Particularly because I’m still a junior researcher, I still have a lot to learn and I mostly work on projects related to my own field. I don’t often look at the broader picture yet; that’s mostly a job for senior people. They are usually the people with the contacts in the drinking water world. In the GRROW lab, you actually get the opportunity to engage in discussions with people working in all eleven drinking water utilities in the Netherlands and Flanders. It doesn’t matter what your specific background is. Everyone is welcome and everyone can contribute ideas. I may end up talking to someone who is an expert in govenance. That is fantastic. Because you can only come up with new insights by taking a broader view.”