In the end of April we spent a week at a WIL, a Water Innovation Lab. Together with other young water leaders we came up with solutions and ideas for water management. We learned about water management in the Netherlands and chatted and exchanged ideas with water management experts. The overarching theme of the WIL was facilitation.

What’s facilitation?

If we’re honest, we weren’t actually sure what they meant when they mentioned facilitation. Did it have anything to do with the strange objects we had to bring? Buckets and shovels, a present and a piece of orange clothing. Throughout the week we learned what facilitiation was and how important it is in the field of Water Management.

We learned that facilitation is about getting a group of people from point A to point B effectively. Which is something that, as a water manager, you need to do constantly. Imagine you are working on a project which aims to bring together ideas for an area (say, the province of Zeeland) in the future (say, 2040). Of course, you will need to start with brainstorming – what are the main problems in the area, and which ideas for solutions are already present in the group?

But how to get input from as many people as possible?


Enter the World Café

A World café is a “powerful social technology for engaging people in conversations that matter”. In practice this means that the group is divided into smaller groups and asked to discuss a particular question. The World Café uses three assumptions:

  1. All knowledge is present in the room/table.
  2. There are three rounds, each round presents a new question to stimulate conversation within the group.
  3. The system is connected to itself, therefore conversations will run together.


So, in different rounds, whilst speaking with different groups of people we managed to gather different ideas and opinions to the questions that were posed. In our case these questions ranged from rather philosophical (“If I was water what do I want?”) to more practical (“What does water need right now?”). At the end of the round the main points from the table were presented to the larger group, through a process that is called “harvesting”.

After “harvesting” we moved on to a next table, and a next topic – but with our newfound ideas in our head, ready to partake in further discussion. Check out this short video that summarizes our day.


We really enjoyed the thinking process and dialogues that came up during this World Café. Particularly through the interaction from people with different points of view and ideas on the topics that we work on on a daily basis. People were able to make links between topics they would not normally spot, and together “richer” answers were found.

If a Water Innovation Lab seems like something you’d like to participate in, check out Waterlution’s upcoming WILs. It’s definitely a perfect opportunity to learn more about facilitation, water management, grow your network and simply have loads of fun!


By guest bloggers
Õnne, Yoni & Els
Alumna, student and a lecturer – the curious bunch who participated in the 2017 WIL in the NL.
Originally posted:


Teaser: Next week, Great Waters Challenge 1st Place Winner Sylvie Spraakman blogs about her experience in the GWC, the challenge of bringing people together and her search for the Great Water story!