Inclusivity and the Roadmap for Human Cities – A conversation with Deltares

Late in 2017, we had the opportunity to sit down and talk about inclusivity with Deltares – one of our partners in the Roadmap for Human Cities. Please enjoy our interview with Mr Toon Segeren, Director of External Relations and Entrepreneurship at Deltares.*

Can you tell us a bit about Deltares and your role at the institute?

Toon Segeren: Deltares is an independent research institute in the field of water and subsurface, and we have five areas of expertise (i.e., flood risk, adaptive delta planning, infrastructure, water & subsoil resources, and environment). We work worldwide, but our home base is The Netherlands. An example of our international work can be seen in the United States. Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, we have been working with research organisations in the city of New Orleans in Louisiana (USA) to examine and source solution to the city’s issues with flooding and subsidence. This is particularly challenging because – much like HCC’s pilot cities – they must deal with both flooding and subsidence. Using Deltares as our model, we have also been involved in setting up organisations like the Water Institute of the Gulf in Louisiana.

In the Netherlands, we do quite a bit of research for the national government and local authorities. We develop knowledge in the field of water and subsurface, and then make that knowledge applicable to authorities, NGOs, and private businesses. The applicability of the knowledge is key for us, and our aim is to solve water and subsurface-related problems, whether that is flooding, a lack of water, or poor water quality. We also aim for our knowledge to positively impact society. Within Deltares, as far as my role is concerned, I work within the Management Team as the Director of External Relations and Entrepreneurship. I focus on building relationships with partners who work in the field of water and subsurface, both nationally and internationally.

Can you give an example of how is Deltares involved in the master planning of one or more HCC’s pilot cities?

Toon Segeren: Well, Deltares has been involved since the beginning of Manila’s master planning endeavour. Our colleague Tjitte Nauta, the Regional Manager for Asia, is one of our most senior project managers. He organised and led the team that carried out the scoping mission for the Manila Bay project and brought a wide range of other organisations, from businesses to NGOs, on board. Mr. Nauta was responsible for preparing the outlines for the Manila masterplan study. Given our early involvement in Manila, Deltares is currently leading the masterplan consortium with HCC as one of the members of that consortium, which we expect to begin in early 2018. In Jakarta, we’re talking about the National and Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD), and Deltares’ role there is to organise the knowledge development and data component. Concerning HCC’s pilot city work more generally, we bring specific knowledge about water management and climate education to the consortium.

How does inclusivity play a role in Deltares’ approach to its work regarding water?

Toon Segeren: If you are talking about water management, it is easy to see the huge importance that accessibility to clean, unpolluted water has. Or to embrace the idea that people, homes, and property should be safe from flooding. These issues are fundamental to the inclusivity of communities within a society. Most of what we do, both in The Netherlands and internationally, is work with governments and authorities to look at the impact water pollution, scarcity and/or flooding has on communities. So, inclusivity for us goes to the heart of what we do. Addressing core issues like climate adaptation or flood protection in an inclusive, wholistic manner is fundamental to the Deltares approach. However, before joining HCC in the signing of the Roadmap for Human Cities, this ‘inclusivity’ element remained somewhat implicit. Through our collaboration with HCC, inclusivity is becoming more explicit in our work.

How does Deltares see the future with respect to urban infrastructure development and inclusivity?

Toon Segeren: In the changing world we live in, what we see is that dealing with multiple stakeholders, and interacting with communities, becomes – for a number of reasons – more and more important. One of those reasons is that technology, particularly the internet, makes our work much more transparent. People have a greater awareness of what we are doing, and we need to pay more attention to their feedback and concerns. We’ve also been thinking about how we integrate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in our work, and align some of our projects with those Goals. Additionally, we are increasingly working alongside organisations that have more experience in dealing with local communities than we do.

Do you see a competitive advantage for companies that leverage inclusivity and stakeholder engagement?

Toon Segeren: When Deltares, HCC, and others signatories initiated the Roadmap for Human Cities at Amsterdam International Water Week in October 2017, we agreed that we are at the stage of exploring precisely how this would work. This is something that we will be developing over the coming 18 months, so I can’t yet answer the question of what the competitive advantage will be. Personally, I’m looking forward to learning a lot about inclusivity and sustainability in the coming 18 months, and that is something that is also important to Deltares, to learn and pick up new developments, and to partner with Dutch and international organisations.

That said, one of the first things that we all need to work on and think about is how we make inclusiveness a part of our work, and then how we make it a competitive advantage. The Roadmap signatories have decided to map what is already happening at the moment within our own organisations with respect to inclusive practices, and I think we can learn a lot from the different participating organisations in terms of best practices and limitations. The ideal scenario is that we as coalition partners will have a clear way forward about how to incorporate inclusiveness in our projects. We also hope that, as Dutch partners, we will develop the knowledge of how to make inclusiveness a competitive advantage worldwide. We need to think about how we bring projects to the market, and how we increase awareness about inclusiveness.

*Periodically we ask our Board Members and others active in HCC or its core activities to author a blog or participate in an interview. While we publish these updates because they touch upon core themes of HCC’s work, they do not necessary represent the official stance of Human Cities Coalition or its partners.

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