Summary and report of outcomes: World Water Week Inter-generational Dialogue

Session summary and conclusions:

This interactive session addressed the need for trans-generational cooperation through a senior/junior panel dialogue and audience participation around the theme of the water-food and energy nexus. Reflections were presented on how to integrate the nexus into development interventions, however panellists had different views on whether ‘problems and needs’ should drive the solutions. Young professionals did not believe we should wait for problems to trigger action. Above all, a need for a shift in the young generation’s mentalities was pointed out: rather than thinking in terms of problems left by previous generations to address, they need to think positively in how they want their future and what needs to be done to achieve it.

The problem of concepts such as “the nexus” becoming buzzwords, just like IWRM was previously a ‘hot’ term was discussed. The nexus was described as a tool only as good as the linkages that are part of it. Furthermore, sometimes terms like nexus or IWRM set a rigid frame for discussion and can restrict our perspectives. However, the nexus was seen by both senior and junior panellists as an effective way to promote better water management in the future. Yet, in order to see the nexus implemented, changes in lifestyle and educational systems was advocated by senior panellists, because the ways we eat and dress should be based on local water resources. Young professionals, on their side, advocated for a series of behavioural changes, such as reducing consumption. What types of changes should be made inspired a lively debate with audience members. A senior professional suggested that when we promote change, we should think about the context, and not ‘silver-bullet solutions’ for what everybody should do. While everyone can contribute, no one can solve the whole problem. We need a whole system approach.

The session concluded with a discussion of ‘how’ to implement increased cooperation between generations. A junior professional emphasized the need for increased dialogue between groups and the roundtable setting was an example of this type of communication opportunity. A senior professional shared the importance of young people challenging ‘established truths’ that exist in many fields, and which can present a barrier to innovation. The promotion of lessons from failure was also brought us, as a way to learn from different generations.

 Take home thoughts:

  • Young people are not a homogeneous group, they are diverse, and can contribute in very different ways, and may have more time to do this than senior professionals
  • Young professionals must remain positive moving into the future, rather than dwell on the past generations’ ‘mistakes’
  • Concepts like ‘nexus’ and IWRM, are simply tools that we shouldn’t get too stuck on. We shouldn’t lose focus by thinking about inventing the next ‘hot’ term
  • Behaviour changes implemented to deal with water challenges should be context-specific, do these changes differ across generational lines?
  • An intergenerational, interdiciplinary and intercultural dialogue is needed to implement the nexus thinking
  • More discussion is needed to identify pragmatic processes of increased collaboration and cooperation across generations

Are there any other take home messages you would add? Please comment below