GRROW: an intergenerational lab for the drinking water sector

What does the future water sector look like? What needs to change and what do we want to maintain? The GRROW lab project wants to answer that question with the people who can question the Dutch and Flemish water sector with fresh eyes: water professionals and researchers younger than 35. The aim is to engage, connect and introduce young professionals of today to everything and everyone in the water world.

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Intergenerational dialogue

Water is essential in our daily lives, and certainly not something we should take for granted. Current developments such as increasingly extreme weather, salinisation and more pollutants are putting pressure on water supplies. What are the implications for the drinking water of the future? In the GRROW project from 2022-2023 (Generational and Radical Rethinking of the Water Sector), we worked with young researchers and drinking water professionals to establish three scenarios for the future: collective chain, water to measure, and disrespect for dischargers. The success of the project has led to a follow-up: the GRROW lab. In this new project, young professionals and researchers (<35 years of age) from across the drinking water industry will be teaming up on research, for example by engaging in discussions with seasoned experts in the sector about the future. By rethinking current systems, we collectively design possible alternative scenarios for that future.

Interactive workshops and network day

The goal of the GRROW lab is 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. In eighteen-month cycles, the group focuses on one of the paradigms in the water chain. They identify, reconsider, redesign and interpret the principles upon which this basic philosophy is based. What can be used? What needs to change? This cyclical method (see figure) was developed during the earlier GRROW project and it has proven its applicability. During the GRROW lab, young drinking water professionals will participate in an inspiration workshop, conduct an intergenerational dialogue and organise an atelier workshop. The process as a whole will conclude with a low-threshold conference. The project also includes the organisation of a network day for young drinking water professionals.

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

The results

Our concrete objectives are the following:

  • Involving young professionals in discussions about future issues in the drinking water sector. That involves an investigation to identify leading paradigms. A key component consists of discussions with seasoned experts in the drinking water sector (intergenerational dialogue).
  • Drawing up new perspectives for the future. Workshops are an important component of this process to engage in sector-wide discussions of leading paradigms and possible alternatives for them. The intention of the workshops (living labs) is to explore and discuss the scope for alternative paradigms with all the professionals involved.
  • Maintaining the network of young drinking water professionals. We aim to involve all eleven Dutch and Flemish drinking water utilities in the context of the Joint Research Programme of KWR and the water utilities (BTO). It is important for young professionals to have the opportunity to engage in discussions with one other and also to raise the issues they feel are important for the future of the sector.

Are you working in the drinking water sector and are you interested in participating in the GRROW lab? Sign up with this link