Target Expertise and Cooperation in Athens Training on Our Water Future

It was a unique week in Athens from 10 – 14 October when members of EJWP Groups 3 and 4 combined expertise and learning paths in a Training Week hosted by the University of Thessaly. The week saw immersion in European projects along with development activities and experiences in local culture and history. 

Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Thessaly and EJWP Ambassador Chrysi Laspidou opened the training week with a welcome briefing on the numerous engagement opportunities that awaited participants during the week. “These young professionals are so inspiring, with fresh ideas and enthusiasm! It is worth investing in this generation!” posted Chrysi on social media about the groups in Athens. 

The ARSINOE project was highlighted on Monday with an Athens case study for participant interaction with the Horizon Europe initiative that is aimed at creating climate resilient-regions through systemic solutions and innovations. The energy then continued to an on-site introduction and tour with EYDAP (water utility of Athens) on the historic Hadrian Aqueduct. 

A dynamic, collaborative Training Week like here in Athens helps connect these types of people, skills and new perspectives in building a more coherent European approach to our common future,” said Naomi Timmer, EJWP Director.  

Serious gaming for adaptive planning tested the decision-making skills of participants on Tuesday as they took part in a SMARTEN project multiplier event to develop a simulated project for a small virtual coastal town.  This exercise was complemented with an afternoon session on Design Thinking for Innovation in Engineering with the University of Thessaly.  

On Wednesday, development sessions featured topics of cross-cultural communication and time management with EJWP Trainer Jennifer Cronick. These elements were worked on specifically as dimensions that differ from culture-to-culture, which can lead to misunderstandings, and then to frustrations which may not be openly (and productively) addressed.  

“One of the topics we had a good laugh about was the dimension of persuasion through understanding a concept, or via proof in the application. A participant who comes from a “concept-first” culture asked more about the theory behind this model. I think that question demonstrates a point proven!” said Jennifer about the training interactions.  

Project-based teamwork was the coaching theme on Thursday. Scenarios on how easily assumptions are made and trust is lost became painfully clear, through identification of situations with block construction simulations. “Metacommunication can be important in making interventions to create breakthroughs during a stalemate. And we recognized that project managers can be easily bypassed if they don’t have added value. Situations like these can depend on where there is a hierarchy or no hierarchy,” said Jennifer.  

Participants confronted the nexus of climate change and challenges faced with technological innovation on Thursday in an interactive masterclass with Dr. Phoebe Koundouri, Professor and Director of Research laboratory on Socio-Economic and Environmental Sustainability (ReSEES), Athens University of Economics and Business. “Dr. Koundouri’s masterclass was an eye opener! It tought me more about, and made appreciate, how my own work fits into the nexus of climate change and the challenges faced with technological innovation in this space. Dr. Koundouri has definitely inspired me to delve deeper,” said Joseph Mooney, PhD, participating in the Training Week from Trinity College in Dublin. 

Increased inter-EJWP collaboration was the buzz on Friday, when EJWP4 participants kicked off their joint participation in the EJWP3 project on “What makes a nexus project impactful?” in support of the EU-funded NEXUSNET project, an international network of researchers collaborating to better understand how the water-energy-food Nexus fosters policy coherence and biophysical interactions. “This week demonstrated connections between the participants and the realization we need to work together more closely to understand how our work fits into a holistic approach – incorporating nexus thinking and beyond” said Naomi Timmer. 

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