From Director Naomi Timmer
On my way to Tel Aviv last week for an EJWP training week, I realized that this month marks the four-year anniversary of our organization. Four years since we began this journey with our first group of young professionals with an ambitious vision. With our 5th group beginning this fall, we are reaching for the same goals today: connecting and empowering early-career professionals in the European water sector.
Together we have experienced four years of amazing adventures in different locations, personal and professional victories, as well as some uncertainty and setbacks. This is part of the EJWP journey and organization – to demand the best of ourselves and others while learning from our path forward.
Since we can only really learn and grow when taking the time to reflect, I took the opportunity of my own journey to Tel Aviv to map out where my part in this bigger picture has been and is going. For me, it can best be expressed through the three-pillar EJWP approach to share why this journey is so important.
Professional & Personal Development
In 2019, I set up EJWP as part of my work for a Dutch professional training programme for young professionals in the water sector, just after I had become a mother for the second time. Since my career has had an internal collaboration path, the step to a European platform was a natural kind of celebration for me.
Creating a new direction, and sharing the human factor potential is actually an honor, because I believe in positive connections to come to solutions for us and our neighbors. But to truly be able to connect, we need to know ourselves, our colleagues, other actors, and how we all function.
Applying human behavior studies for tools and trainings to support our young professionals since 2019, I’ve been satisfied to see impacts for the good of people, nature and communities. I hope others in and working with EJWP are experiencing this kind of motivation as well. We embrace the openness, curiosity, fear, and so many more emotions that make us human. To know this and to harness the best in ourselves we become more effective and empathic in our work.
We continue to cross new boundaries: in backgrounds and disciplines, types of partner organizations, cultures and countries. And even after four years, I still feel we are just beginning this journey. Understanding the complex dynamics, the policy systems, cultures, and the natural/technical contexts is essential to grow and create the impact that I believe we all can achieve. I would not have expected it, but even after participating in numerous sessions with our trainers Jennifer and Filip, and the classes I have led myself, I grow, learn and realize something new every single time.
Knowledge Creation & Sharing
I have been active in the European water sector for more than 5 years, and 11 years in the water sector in general. I still smile when I say that I ended up where I am accidentally. My career made very little sense – at least to me –until I heard former UN Chief Kofi Annan speak at a Dutch conference in a way that connected my resume: from social science, politics and power, to religion, culture and conflicts, to human behavior and skills development in the water sector. I thought well, since it made sense to Kofi Annan, I took a closer look inward and my path made more sense for me.
My part of the journey in knowledge creation and sharing takes place mostly in projects with our participants and partner organizations. These projects on a range of topics establish the awareness of context for knowledge. Through working together, we realize that there is in some ways so much time, and yet so little time for people in the whole process. These collaborations have also helped me see and feel the beauty of intergenerational knowledge sharing. It can be seen as a journey of leadership, perception, and again, connection. Without these experiences together, beneficial knowledge may stay locked away, therefore hindering the needed development and innovation as well.
Four years of EJWP have brought a rich diversity of projects that have seen successes and failures in different aspects – sometimes based on expectations, context and personalities of those involved. Most importantly, they have all been unique and inspirational learning experiences.
Now even more as Director of H2O-People and EJWP, I see the value of networking across the sector and related disciplines. I could even say that – once again – connections are at the core of all EJWP journeys and learning. This networking creates a human approach, a sort of mirror for personal reflection, exponential knowledge, and threads of common behaviors that make up our European Water Sector.
In this, I owe much to Water Europe as one of our founding partners. In the early days with only a couple of months active in the European community the (online) events of Water Europe created a real opportunity to connect with possible partners all over Europe. With our computer screen connections in Covid times, we adapted and asserted our new skills in online networking and collaborating.
With our recent Tel Aviv Training Week collaboration with EcoPeace, and a new concept of EJWP Boot Camp at Water Innovation Europe in Brussels this week, we are building a value together that we take back to our organizations and communities. Digital opportunities have their uses, but I believe that the human-to-human work together on common goals takes us further toward where we need to be.
This four-year reflection and celebration must include thanking the people who make my network active and productive: my H2O-People/EJWP team! Some have been with us from the start, and others just arrived last month. We all have our unique personalities, expertise and contributions. You all have made it possible to grow from one group in June 2019 to:
- 2 groups completed (check out their journeys Group 1 & Group 2)
- 2 groups in-progress
- New groups being organized
- Participants from a range of organizations and countries from around Europe
- The creation of new initiatives: Blue Innovation Track development platform for Advanced Water Leaders, Water-Smart Bootcamps, New Waves Festivals, and more in creation for our future.
- Plus with H2O-People: 2 ERASMUS+ projects & 2 HORIZON projects
I am humbled by the energy, dedication and expertise of the people whom I have encountered so far in four years of this EJWP journey. I invite you to join us to build our collective potential in different ways to make the most of our water future!