Dutch Water Sector Intelligence: solving impending problems and exploiting emerging opportunities optimally.

The need: Collective futures research

To work proactively, managers, developers, researchers, and policy makers need to conceptualise the future. But the future is inherently uncertain and conventional futures research is complex and costly; which is why it is often delegated to a separate department or external bureau. This is problematic for two reasons:

  1. knowledge transfer from the futures researcher to the decision maker is difficult,
  2. much unnecessary work is repeated by similar organisations independently monitoring a shared context.

DWSI is a collective initiative by the Dutch water sector to deal with this challenge in an integrated and intelligent fashion.

The answer: A strategic social learning alliance

Strategic thinkers and decision makers from each of the partner organisations form a think-tank 3 times per year. This think-tank is the heart of DWSI. DWSI is designed using the principles of Social Learning. The think-tank sessions facilitate not only knowledge transfer but also co-learning. Through a process of collective exploration members make the most of the diversity of knowledge and insights at hand with representatives from all corners of the water sector. Leading experts from outside the water sector are also invited to the sessions to provide fresh perspectives. Carefully tailored group processes are used to reveal and test participant’s assumptions and facilitate generation and analysis of alternatives to ascertain whether or not adaptation is needed. Participants leave the think-tank sessions with new building blocks for response strategies.

The method: Food for thought

A team of researchers at KWR Watercycle Research Institute continuously examines and reports on social, economic, political, technological, ecological, and demographic trends in the context of the water sector. DWSI members access the results of this research via concise Trend Alerts. The futures research team also participates in various networks such as the World Future Society and European Foresight Platform and attends conferences to be aware of and understand the most important current developments. The knowledge acquired through this research is used to programme the themes for the think-tank sessions and select the best external experts to fuel the strategists of the water sector with new insights.

Vision: Ambitions for the future

DWSI helps organisations in the Dutch water sector to make intelligent strategic decisions based on informed and reviewed assumptions. Members are provided with a social learning environment as well as information on trends and a network of knowledgeable peers. Besides continuing to refine our role as the futures research platform for the Dutch water sector, DWSI aspires to help create a network of strategic social learning alliances throughout the water sector in Europe. In this network strategic thinkers from different cities and countries will learn from each other to make more informed and integrated strategic decisions. This will involve information exchange regarding emerging opportunities and threats and collective learning for the creation of optimum response strategies.

European Water Sector Intelligence

And now DWSI is looking for a way to share this knowledge in Europe, under the name EWSI.