Urbanising Deltas of the World: from research to creating impact

Annual meeting 2019

13 May 2019

On 21-22 March, over fifty international researchers and representatives from NGOs, private sector and governments participated in the Annual Meeting of the Urbanising Deltas of the World research and innovation programme. Besides presenting highlights of each of its thirteen projects, the meeting stimulated discussions about creating knowledge for impact. A timely topic, given that most of its projects are at full speed, while some of the first call projects are nearing completion.

Reflecting on transdisciplinary research

An introductory presentation was given by Han van Dijk, Coleen Vogel and Leon Hermans. Han van Dijk, UDW programme coordinator, started the session by presenting WOTRO’s perspective on multi-, inter- and transdisiplinarity and how WOTRO’s approach has gradually changed over the last twenty years. Coleen Vogel, member of the Urbanising Deltas of the World (further: UDW) International Advisory Committee, presented an introduction and examples of transdisiplinarity from the scientific literature. She noted that more papers are needed on the process of transdiscplinarity in practice in addition to the existing papers on outcomes. Finally, Leon Hermans, UDW project leader, shared some issues that emerged from the session on transdisiplinarity of UDW research at the International Conference on Water and Flood Management which took place recently in Bangladesh.

Stimulating research uptake

Martijn van Staveren, knowledge facilitator for the UDW programme, introduced himself to the UDW community and presented the programme’s knowledge sharing plan. Projects shared experiences with or ideas about innovative science communication activities, from publishing weblogs, using gaming theory, street corner drama, living labs, design competitions and composing policy briefs, to targeted outreach and aiming to benefit from local champions and ambassadors. A central approach, to be developed further, is to present project’s storylines as an attractive way to disseminate research findings to a broad audience.

Identifying impact pathways

Han van Dijk opened the session with an introductory presentation starting by sketching the background and efforts to jointly develop a Theory of Change (ToC) for the UDW programme. ToC development only partially materialised, as it appeared difficult to do justice to the diversity of themes and impacts envisaged by the set of projects. Jan Joost Kessler from Aidenvironment, presented three generic UDW impact pathways which he developed based upon projects’ progress and mid-term self-assessment reports. He stressed that it is not useful to try to show what the exact contribution to impact has been, but that it is useful to envisage how we think we will contribute to impact.

Pitching project progress (and lessons learned)

  • Rise & Fall success story
    Piet Hoekstra shared the innovative and challenging research results related to land subsidence in Vietnam, summarises how stakeholders have been engaged in the project and what the most important outreach and communication activities, including high level meetings, have been.
  • Media adventures – Hydro-Social Deltas
    Hasan Ashraf introduced the set-up for a video that shows the effects of large processes like rural-urban migration, the future of Dhaka and sustainable urban development and the Bangladesh Delta Plan through the eyes of Riksha pullers, and to make these effects visible to policy makers.
  • The Delta Community: forwarding UDW research in Bangladesh
    Umme Kulsum introduced the Delta Community and its goal: to serve as a platform for delta-focused research and policy engagement through networking and collaboration. She showed where and how all PhD researchers can make contributions to the knowledge agenda of the Bangladesh Delta Plan.
  • First results of case study Jakarta – Adaptive Delta Management
    Febya Nurnadiati showed the first modelling results of her PhD research regarding land subsidence and how this is affected by different water related issues in Jakarta.
  • Synthesis workshop and special issue – Strategic Delta planning
    Wim Douven shared an update on the synthesis workshop that took place last year. Chris Seijger discussed the development of the special issue in the Journal of environmental planning and management. Finally, Tran Dung Duc presented the MOTA framework and how this framework has already been successfully applied by various organisations.
  • ENTIRE update and spin-off initiative
    Kasia Kujawa briefly introduced the ENTIRE project and the different research lines.
  • Clean water and sanitation – Fresh water Mozambique
    Luuk Rietveld started his presentation with the situation of the floods in Beira. He then introduced his project focusing on sustainable urban water management and water reclamation in the city of Maputo, Mozambique.
  • Update prototype CORE Bangladesh
    William Veerbeek presented different flood proofing technologies such as a flex base for amphibious housing support and green soil bags for dike support. He stressed that the learning space requires complete rethinking of technology to ensure it becomes adapted to the local needs and context.
  • Business challenge Ghana - Waterapps
    Richard Yeboah presented a business challenge: to develop a commercially viable interactive rainfall forecasting app for farmers and farmer organisations. The challenge will be published at the end of March.
  • TRM for creating ‘Living Polders’ in Bangladesh
    Frank van Laerhoven briefly introduced the tidal river management concept and the framework within which the Living Polders project works.
  • (Delta) MAR for drinking water supply in hard to reach areas
    In this project, 99 MAR (Managed Aquifer Recharge) sites are being monitored. There are many advantages to the MAR system, so could it be the next big thing to provide drinking water to the hard-to-reach areas?
  • End-user inclusive water research in PhD hometowns - DELTAP
    Kajol Annaduzzaman presented an update on the progress that has been made so far in the DELTAP project and explained the advantages and disadvantages of working in your home town as a PhD researcher.
  • Designing a framework for port development in urbanising delta’s
    Jill Slinger introduced the project and presents the sustainable ports framework, including the steps they have taken to work in a stakeholder-inclusive ecosystem-based design.

Plenary presentations

Source: NWO