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NWWC 2017 Workshop Results

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Participative strategic visioning and planning can clarify vision and direction, prioritize strategic goals and inspire stakeholders to work together to create the ideal future. During the CWWA Window in Ottawa (2017) workshop: "Strategic Visioning of Urban Water Management 2050" the challenges associated with Urban Water Management were explored. The participative and creative workshop identified four interrelated topics: SMART Cities, Security, Sustainability and Resilience as key areas that will shape the future of Urban Water Management.

To further explore and develop the strategic vision for Urban Water Management, a follow-on workshop was held at the National Water and Wastewater Conference in St John's NFLD on 5-8 November 2017. 
The goal of the NWWC 2017 workshop was to:

  • Explore the innovation space supporting Urban Water management 2050 along the emergent themes of SMART City; Sustainability; Security; Resilience
  • Apply the principles of Appreciative Inquiry, Design Thinking and Visual Thinking
  • Challenge how we see the world
  • Introduce multiple perspectives in Designing a Strategic Vision for Urban Water Management 2050  
  • Identify Root causes of Success
  • Strategic Mapping

It is recognized that within the safety and security domains, there are many problems that need more than one kind of knowledge to solve them, so interdisciplinary innovation is an essential tool for the challenging problems of today. This in particular resonates with the challenges associated with the future of urban water management (OECD, 2016). Interdisciplinary innovation arises from the positive effects that result when stepping across the social boundaries that we structure knowledge by. Those boundaries exist within academic disciplines, government departments, and private sector as well as the boundaries between these domains. It is recognized that in today’s complex threat and risk landscape associated with water safety and security, it is often the case that the right knowledge to solve a problem is in a different place to the problem itself, so interdisciplinary innovation is an essential tool for the future.

To explore the strategic vision of urban water, the workshop participants (from across numerous disciplines) were introduced to visual thinking, design thinking and systems thinking. Through an appreciative inquiry lens and soft systems methodology, the participants created visualizations of the future of urban water (figure 1). Appreciative Inquiry is a strength-based approach to problem identification and solution navigation. What is important to recognize from Appreciative Inquiry is that it not only focuses on the best of what is, but engages all stakeholders in a processes of re-imagining what could be and thereby facilitating the creation of a shared vision. These qualities made Appreciative Inquiry well suited as a method of inquiry to examine the future challenges associated with water security.
 
Figure 1: Rich Pictures depicting the Future of Urban Water Management
 
Following the visualization exercise, the participants then constructed an opportunity tree (figure 2). The opportunity tree was a method employed to capture the root causes of success and outcomes. 
As depicted in figure 2, the root causes of success included:
Multidisciplinary dialogue
Trust
Continuous learning
Shared ownership of the solution
Data driven decision making
Innovation mindset

The outcomes of these root causes of success included:
Trust relationships across all stakeholders
Reflective Practices
Sustainability
Resilience
Security
SMART (interconnected, self-healing, distributed situation awareness)
Co-creation
Emergent values of the water sector
oAccessibility
oInclusiveness
oEthical
oRespectful
ocreative
 
 

Figure 2: Opportunity Tree depicting the root causes of success and expected outcomes

These exercises were the basis for rich discussions in the Workshop that allowed participants to re-imagine what our future and the future of urban water management could be.

Comments from the workshop experience:
 
 "The Urban Water Workshop provided an opportunity to do something we have really seen a need for over the past few years.  It enabled the peer sharing of those working on different key elements of the urban water resilience challenge, of which water management is central, but only one part.  It was great to participate in an exchange about how to connect with not just what is needed, but what can be supported."
Bernadette Conant, CEO, Canadian Water Network

 "Wonderful opportunity to share our work with water and wastewater professionals from all across Canada"
Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

"Everyone talks about thinking out of the box and its importance in solving problems but those who do it are rare. This workshop showed us how to do it. The instructors helped the participants to figure out the process at their own pace specially Dr. Masys’ capability in guiding everyone along the way was amazing and one of the main reason why this workshop was successful. I am hoping to see similar workshops in future CWWA conferences"
Ehsan Roshani, Research Officer, National Research Council Canada 
 
Conclusion
Innovation is a key requirement to realize the opportunities for the future of urban water management. The focus of the workshop was on examining the safety and security landscape associated with urban water management through an Appreciative Inquiry lens of SOAR: (Strengths; Opportunities; Aspirations; Results). 

 

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