Introducing the ‘Value Generator’ in area agendas

Useful toolbox helps at the outset of multiple value creation

Multiple value creation is something we all aspire to in spirit, but it is challenging to actually implement it in practice. A project like The New N200 demonstrates that it is certainly possible to link area agendas and to come up with smart integrated solutions, but it also teaches us that a lot depends on the talent and initiative of individual innovators in practice. Even though this is a good thing, it also makes it clear that innovators in practice still have to swim against the tide if they want to complete projects that deliver multiple values. Existing and sector-oriented approaches, rules and routines often act as barriers. They don’t fit in with integrated collaboration, even though this is becoming ever more important because of the multiple challenges.

To support innovators in practice throughout the Netherlands in their efforts to address multiple challenges in the urban area (see Figure 1 from the NOVI), a team of researchers from the University of Maastricht (UM), University of Amsterdam (UvA) and KWR developed the ‘Value Generator’, a toolbox for multiple value creation.

The national interests on this map from the NOVI show multiple challenges in the Netherlands (Kort, 2022).

The ‘Value Generator’: a treasure chest of tools and knowledge for multiple value creation

The ‘Value Generator’ is an online toolbox that brings together knowledge, tools and practical stories in the field of integrated work and multiple value creation. Some of these tools have been applied in recent years in the various cases of the Water Knowledge Action Programme, such as the value maps or the multi-criteria deliberation. There are also tools that have been developed elsewhere but that have considerable potential to advance multiple value creation in practice such as the community canvas or the multiple value creation canvas for circular area development.

Since multiple value creation usually involves large complex agendas with specific local challenges, the approach is always tailor-made. This means that following a general ‘step-by-step plan’ and applying a single tool will not immediately produce the right result. Indeed, multiple value creation often goes hand in hand with system innovation. This means that it is necessary to move ‘to and fro’ between process elements and that ‘learning’ is an important part of the development processes (you can read more about this in the Value Generator). This sounds, and indeed is, challenging for anyone who wants to work on multiple value creation in area processes, but important steps have been taken with the toolbox by:

  • introducing consistency in ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ for multiple value creation;
  • establishing a shared idea about multiple value creation that helps engage a range of actors in the different parts of a development process;
  • grouping tools and making them accessible to innovators in practice who are involved at different points in multiple value creation processes; and
  • sharing insights about applying tools in practice.

Exploring tools at AGV/Waternet

On Monday, 13 March, the toolbox was presented to employees of the Amstel, Gooi en Vecht water authority and the Waternet (AGV/Waternet) water utility and they were given the opportunity to explore the various tools in the toolbox. During the meeting, there was a brief discussion of the concept of multiple value creation (see Figure 2) and how the toolbox is structured. Ten employees from various levels of the organisation were present, all of whom come across multiple value creation in their day-to-day work. Strategists from a range of programmes, a project manager, a line manager, an asset manager, and community and policy consultants were asked to reflect on the basis of their own individual perspectives about which tool would be of interest to AGV/Waternet and to what extent the tool could help them in their day-to-day work.

This first session was devoted to getting acquainted with the tools and discovering their potential. On the basis of the insights, the idea was to think about the structural implementation of the tools during a follow-up session. There were a number of tools that participants could get started with right away, including value mapping, the multiple value creation canvas and the community canvas. These tools are useful for conducting the discussions about multiple value creation with other parties. Other tools, such as area investment zones, had attracted interest but Waternet/AGV did not consider them to be of immediate interest as a focus area. The participants thought they would be useful only if a lot of parties in a particular domain were to decide to invest jointly in collective facilities. In addition, value models, such as the six capitals framework, the donut model and the wheel for the living environment also generated discussions about how to capture values. Here, another question that arose was how policy visions from different organisations can be integrated and whether the models can help in that respect. Overall, the tools turned out to be ‘appropriate’ for strategic consultants and project leaders to work with.

Linking agendas and shaping integrated solutions make it possible to create multiple values (Minouche, Mihai, Griffin, Sluimer and Beunderman, 2022).


In general, AGV/Waternet employees thought the toolbox was valuable. People find it pleasant that there is a single location where knowledge and insights can be found about multiple value creation. ‘It is useful to consult the toolbox at the outset of a process for creating multiple values,’ says Harry de Brauw (Energy Transition project manager). It also became clear during the session that AGV/Waternet is facing structural challenges as well. ‘It is important to anchor Multiple Value Creation on a broader basis in the organisation,’ says Rob Ververs (member of the Linkage Opportunities core team). The main question to emerge was when to work in multiple ways, and when not, and how to make decisions in that respect.

For the researchers, it was useful to test the toolbox with professionals who actually have to work with multiple value creation in practice. It was not straightforward to develop a toolbox for a complex concept such as Multiple Value Creation. It was a challenge to do justice to multiple value creation in all respects and also to establish a structure that makes it possible for professionals to make minor or major interventions based on tools that will ultimately lead to integrated solutions that deliver multiple values. However, on the basis of the reflection process, we can say at this stage that, with a number of final improvements, the process has been successful.

Many more insights about integrated working and multiple value creation will emerge in the years ahead, and other tools will be added to the toolbox. We are calling on everyone to get on the learning train, to apply tools in their own processes and to share insights with us. Multiple value creation, like knowledge action, is a shared search!