Liliane Geerling joined Partners for Waters on October 1st as programme coordinator. Common themes throughout her whole career have been water, spatial adaptation, knowledge sharing and project and programme management This is one of the reasons she believes that now, in her current position, everything she has learned in the past years is ‘coming together’. But first, let’s get to know her a bit better. Welcome to the team, Liliane!

‘Since graduating as a spatial designer at the Technical University in Delft, I’ve always found it important to incorporate local contexts into my work. Water is of course part of this context and has become an increasingly important topic in my career. The city of Rotterdam,  my first employer where I worked as project and programme manager, was involved in water issues at an early stage. So, for me, the current theme of “water and soil are leading” has been the starting point for me for many years already. Smart city planning and design means putting water in its natural place.

The other side of the table

‘After working for 7 years as project manager and advisor for a spatial development consultancy agency, I joined the HZ University of Applied Sciences in Zeeland. For 10 years I gave form to the spatial development courses within their water management programme as senior lecturer and researcher. Within that programme delta countries play a pivotal role which is why I’ve worked on a lot of projects in Southeast Asia. That’s when I first encountered PfW. Back then I was “on the other side of the table” trying to win subsidy schemes. An experience I’ll now take with me in my work here.’

‘At PfW I’ll work on connecting the components of the programme: subsidies, thematic and delta approaches and making sure that lessons learned are well communicated. There are many things to focus on, like figuring out how we can distinguish ourselves better in the Dutch water sector. Or how we, with relatively small budgets, can still manage to create “flywheel effects” in the countries where we’re active. Co-creation plays a big role in this because if locals don’t embrace it, a project will never be successful.’

New opportunities

‘I would also like to emphasise monitoring and evaluation, a topic which hasn’t received enough attention yet. Starting up a project is one thing, keeping it going is just as important. Continuity also fits our ambition of making the water sector more circular. Of course, national and local politics play a role in this process too. New political leaders need to understand the importance of our work. This can be challenging, but it is the circumstances in which we operate. It is complex, but also exciting and sometimes a turn of events, which at first seems negative, can lead to new positive opportunities.’

Currently I’m trying to figure out what my field looks like, which is why I’m in The Hague a lot, meeting people and connecting the dots. Systems thinking and integration have always been a part of my career, so I’m used to looking at complex situations from different angles. But I feel that in this position everything comes together: learning, capacity building, knowledge sharing, managing, innovating, communicating and preparing for the future. It will also be very interesting to see how the various water related programmes within RVO can strengthen one another in the coming years. And fun!

Valuable knowledge continues to be generated through the programmes facilitated by Partners for Water (PfW). Learnings and insights that can potentially benefit anyone working within the water security. That’s why sharing these is an essential part of what PfW does. This is where Bram van der Wielen comes in. As Knowledge & Communication Advisor he connects water enthusiasts around the world. Nice to meet you, Bram!

‘I’ve been with Partners for Water for about a year now’, Bram tells us. ‘Before coming here, I developed my communication skills at different governmental organisations, such as the Netherlands Nutrition Centre (Voedingscentrum), the Inspectorate of Education (Onderwijsinspectie) and the Dutch Flood Protection Programme (HWBP). The goal was always the same: to tell stories in a simple yet effective way.’

Bram used to feel that his job satisfaction mainly came from this and that the subject itself was less important. ‘However, when I started working for HWBP, this belief started to change and I became fascinated by the work of the Dutch water sector. So, when I saw the Knowledge & Communication Advisor vacancy at PfW, I was immediately sold. I love contributing to something we sometimes take for granted in the Netherlands: water security.’

Building traction

Within the PfW-programme, there are countless interesting stories to be told. But what is the best way to do this? ‘To help figure this out, I’m working with everyone who is involved with Partners for Water, which is a lot of fun. The past year we’ve taken important steps in improving PfW communications. We’ve increased our online presence and participated in more events. In 2024 we’ll keep building traction with a new website, corporate videos and inspiring content.’

‘Of course, expanding the Partners for Water network is also a big part of what we’re about. That’s why we’re constantly working on getting the right people to meet each other. Events play a big role in this. In 2024 there will be conferences on water tech and water management in Singapore and Indonesia, which we’ll attend. We’re also organising our own event, called Waterproof.’

Aiming for commitment

One of the goals with the events we’re involved in, is to get concrete and to try to agree on action right there at the event itself. We want to do more than just shake hands; we want change. That’s why we actively seek commitment on topics like Nature-based Solutions (NBS), biodiversity and social inclusion. An example of this is the Coalition on Nature-based Solutions launched at the United Nations Conference on Water in New York in March 2023. It is a powerful alliance to create a breakthrough in the implementation of NBS for water-related challenges.’

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Ivo van der Linden has recently joined Partners for Water

He’s not completely new, however, as he was a ‘Rijkstrainee’ (government intern) with PfW in 2008 and served as coordinator for Indonesia for the Netherlands Water Partnership from 2011-2017. Now he will be the Delegated Representative (DR) for Indonesia. He invites anyone interested in the Dutch – Indonesian water cooperation to get in touch with him to talk about opportunities. But first, we will learn a little bit more about him. Welcome to the team, Ivo!

‘I visited Indonesia for the first time back in 2008. As a “Rijkstrainee” (government intern) at PfW, I was stationed at the Netherlands Embassy in Jakarta, supporting a mission for a Dutch minister and her delegation that were visiting Indonesia. I was also involved in the Dutch support for Jakarta’s flood management, which is now known as “National Capital Integrated Coastal Development”.’ After working for seven years as the Indonesian liaison for the Netherlands Water Partnership, Ivo chose to pursue a different career path in order to broaden his knowledge and skills: ‘That’s why I made the move to the Dutch public transport team at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W). For the past six years as Senior Policy Advisor I was involved in developing the railway system in The Netherlands and cross borders.’

Hybrid role

Now Ivo has taken off with his family to Jakarta for a new adventure as the Delegated Representative (DR) for Indonesia. ‘For three years, I will be formally stationed with the Indonesian Ministry of Public Works and Housing. My roll will be a hybrid one meaning that I’m with the Indonesian Ministry, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Waterworks (I&W) and the Dutch embassy. This way I’m in the best position to guide the collaboration between relevant governments, companies and other stakeholders involved.’

‘In the last three years I’ve developed a strong network within the Netherlands Ministry of I&W and gained experience in both strategic and political consulting. In addition, I’ve made frequent short and long trips to Indonesia working on various water related projects. I believe these two experiences have prepared me for the role of DR Water Indonesia and will help me to accelerate the strategic, tactical- and operational water cooperation between the two countries.’

Diversity in solutions

In his time as DR, Ivo wants to work hard in matching the Dutch water expertise to specific challenges that Indonesia faces. ‘We need to identify what our strengths are and only suggest using them if we believe they will further benefit Indonesia. To do so, we need to look at the broad spectrum of our sector. The solutions available are very diverse and are coming from newcomers with innovative ideas. That is why we need to involve the young, bright Indonesian and Dutch professionals of tomorrow.’

‘Based on my experiences in flood management in Jakarta, I will track the challenges and opportunities for the Dutch Water sector for both the development of Nusuntara in Kalimantan province, which is going to be the new capital of Indonesia and Jakarta, the current capital. The plan is to make Nusuntara green and ‘smart’ – a great idea that will also come with big challenges. Opportunities for our sector exist, such as in climate adaptation and sustainable water management. In my role, what is important for me is that I carry out my responsibilities in a way that fits the sector and its stakeholders. That is why I’m sending out an open invitation to get in touch with me. I hope to speak to you soon!’

This May, Tamar Meibergen joined Partners for Water as a Programme Advisor

She will work on various projects, such as the Vietnam programme, the subsidy scheme, the monitoring and evaluation framework and an event about Nature-based Solutions.

In her spare time, she is also all about water sailing competitively on an all-female team. Nice to meet you, Tamar!

International Ambition

‘While I was studying, water was always the focal point. First with my bachelors in Social Geography and Planning in Utrecht and then later with my masters in Environmental Geography in Amsterdam.’ As a part of her studies, Tamar did an internship at the NGO Wetlands International in Mali. ‘I worked on many interesting projects there, like a flood warning system for illiterate farmers and figuring out how to make gold extraction sustainable.’ After her studies, Tamar worked for 2,5 years as a Water and Climate Consultant at TwynstraGudde. ‘Although I learned a lot, I also realised that I want to invest more time in implementing projects internationally, while working together with all kinds of different people. So, when the opportunity arose to work with Partners for Water I decided to go for it.’

Innovation and Experimenting

Tamar believes her consultancy experience will prove to come in handy at Partners for Water. ‘Although I have only just started, I can already tell that there is a lot innovation and experimenting here. If you see an opportunity there is room to go for it. Applying a proactive approach is something I learned both at TwynstraGudde and while doing a ‘Inclusieve Groene Groei’ (Inclusive Green Growth) internship at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These work experiences also taught me how to develop strong networks. It will be interesting to be on ‘the other side’ as now I’ll be working with consultants instead of being one myself. I think knowing both perspectives will help me too.’

Vietnam Experience

‘I’ll be working on several topics over the next few months. For example, I will spend time on our Vietnam programme while the designated Programme Advisor is away. Luckily, I already have some prior knowledge of Vietnam. I was there for my master thesis, which was about the export of Dutch water expertise and how trade missions contribute to them. I will also work on our subsidy scheme as well as our monitoring and evaluation framework, which will helps us see the results of our work more tangibly. Lastly, we will organise a Nature-based Solutions event when the World Bank and Asion Development Bank delegates visit in June.

Meaningful Cooperation

Tamar appreciates the changes made in the way the Dutch water sector works with international partners. ‘We used to present a solution without really consulting with our counterparts. Nowadays, there is meaningful cooperation in the whole process making use of local knowledge.’ Water is not only important to Tamar in her professional life, but also in her private life. That is why she devotes a lot of time to competitive sailing. ‘I’ve been on the water since I was young. The team I’m involved in is all-female,  which is pretty unique in the competitions we enter. When I’m sailing, I not only see trash in the water, but also the daily problems that are connected to water management. This make it all the more motivating to make the most of my time at Partners for Water.’

This month, Simon van Meijeren started as Programme Advisor for Partners for Water

Specialising in irrigation and integrated water management and with extensive experience working on water-related projects worldwide, Simon brings valuable knowledge and expertise to the team.

Partners for Water is excited to have him on board. Nice to meet you Simon!

From Zeeland to Yemen

After completing his studies in International Land and Water Management, Simon spent six years working at Acacia Water, a small consulting firm that develops sustainable solutions for water-related issues around the world. Their projects cover a wide range of topics and areas, from groundwater to surface water and from Zeeland to Yemen. Simon began as a technician and has since become an advisor focusing on irrigation and integrated water management. He is now looking forward to applying his knowledge and skills to his new role as a Partners for Water’s Programme Advisor for Indonesia.

Systems approach

‘During the last 1.5 years at Acacia, I provided the German Development Bank (KfW) with technical and strategic advice on their water portfolio in Yemen and Palestinian territories. I learned the importance of a well-formulated and technically sound framework in which projects can be executed, and also what the impacts are when this is not the case. Often the framework does not match the reality on the ground or provides limited guidance for effective project execution, hampering the overall impact and sustainability. I also discovered that the success of a project heavily depends on the engagement of local actors and their expertise.’ Simon aims to integrate these insights into his work at Partners for Water by fostering a systems approach and emphasising the importance of engaging with local actors.

Social Inclusion

‘One important lesson that I have learned is that a technical solution is not necessarily a silver bullet. A technology’s success is over 50% dependent on its ability to adapt to the social context and local traditions. For instance, a project proposal in Ethiopia aimed at increasing water use efficiency for small farmers proposed to introduce drip irrigation systems. However, it appeared that previous drip irrigation projects had failed. A lack of technical know-how and absence of farmer support left farmers using the drip lines to tie up their tomato plants. In order to avoid repeating the same failure, we investigated the reasons for farmers to use their water more efficiently and tried to find alternative technologies that matched their rationales. As a result, we choose to optimise the existing irrigation technique, rather than switching to a new technology. I learned that a successful project should involve key stakeholders in project design. Find a solution that is close to them, meets their needs and aligns with their practices. This applies as much to farmers in Ethiopia as to those in Zeeland, or any other region where a project is being implemented.’

A journey of discovery

‘In the coming years, I believe I will learn a lot from government collaborations, diplomacy and political relationships. I’m also very interested in the social aspect and cultural differences that I will encounter. Understanding these differences can offer valuable insights into why people do certain things and why things happen as they do. In addition, I am looking forward to sharing my technical background and knowledge of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) with my colleagues and the various subsidy-receiving parties. My first destination? Indonesia.’ Next week, Simon will board a plane to Java for a two-week working visit. ‘It will be a great journey of discovery in the months to come!’

The newest addition to the Partners for Water-team is Luciel Bakker

As part of her  government traineeship she joins the programme from March until September. She wants to learn as much as possible and of course we want to learn about her too. So, we sat down with her for a chat. Nice to meet you, Luciel!

‘My journey as Rijkstrainee started last September when I joined the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. There I coordinated the pre-financing of urgent programmes on topics such as water, nitrogen and nature. To learn more about the implementation side of such programmes, I joined the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) and their Partners for Water (PfW) programme. A place where I feel at home because ever since I was young, I’ve been fascinated by climate change, nature and biodiversity.’

Scientific perspective

‘I have a bachelor’s degree in political sciences, but that didn’t feel substantial enough. I became aware that I wanted to gain more background knowledge on what interests me. That’s why I decided to study Governance of Sustainability for my masters. With this, you get a good combination of the scientific perspective on climate change as well as how to best address it. I specialised in nitrogen, a topic which connects everything together: economics, nature, farmers and all of the social implications.’

International field

‘I’ve always been fascinated by Dutch agriculture and I even did an internship with Rabobank, the “farmers bank”. Given how closely linked and intertwined the topics of water and the agricultural are, joining the PfW programme felt like a logical next step. What I’ve done up until now has always been nationally focused. So, I look forward to getting insights into how our national developments relate to the international political field and what factors to take into consideration when working internationally. How, for instance, to take into account cultural differences.’

Cohesion and interaction

‘In my first weeks at PfW I reviewed several subsidiary request applications, which I felt were well written and thought out. That means I can learn a lot from them which is great. It’s also fun to read about the innovative solutions the applicants have proposed. I’m honoured to be able to comment on them and the team’s guidance has been great. In the coming time, I hope to contribute to the programme with what I’ve learned in the first part of my traineeship: analysing the cohesion and interaction between the different actors operating in the field.’

Middle East

‘I’m originally from Zaandam, but I now live in Amsterdam. Taking the train to The Hague can sometimes be a bit of a nuisance, but it’s a sacrifice I happily make. My future plans? Part of my traineeship is being sent to another ministry, province embassy or consulate for half a year. A consulate would be my preference. I would love to be stationed abroad and work on a project related to climate change. I’ve always had a deep love and interest for the Middle East, so ultimately my dream is to do valuable work there.’

Neeltje Kielen is the new Delegated Representative for Water (DR) at the Netherlands Embassy in Bangladesh

On the 4th of March she’ll make the move to Dhaka, to stay for 3 years. To get to know Neeltje a bit better, we sat down with her to hear about her plans.

‘I’ve always worked in the field of water, for governments and international organizations. My first job was in Punjab, Pakistan. An interesting assignment for a research institute, on the influence of waterlogging and salinity on agricultural production. After working, amongst others, for the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Italy and the Environment Agency in England I’ve been with Rijkswaterstaat for the past fifteen years before joining RVO.’

Balanced relationship

‘My position in Bangladesh mainly focuses on supporting the Bengal government with executing their Delta Program by providing our support and expertise. After all, the Dutch have been working on our delta since – basically – the Middle Ages. Therefore, our governmental organizations, knowledge institutes and companies have a lot to offer. Now that Bangladesh is predicted to becoming a middle-income country in the next few years it means our relationship with Bangladesh will transform into a more balanced one based on working together in the ‘golden triangle’ of government, knowledge institutes and the private sector.’

Process and content

‘A large part of my time with Rijkswaterstaat I worked on the Dutch delta programme. That experience I’ll be able to use as DR in Bangladesh. When it comes to knowledge, policy, or implementation, process and content always go hand in hand. For example, when I read “It’s our goal to provide millions of people with clean drinking water”, I immediately think: who’s goal is this, how do you want to accomplish this, who gets to participate and who gets to take decisions? Content-based objectives raise process-based questions – and vice versa.

Action is needed

‘I’m a strategic thinker who likes to analyze complex playing fields. To have an overview, learn the rules, and get to know the players. And then decide which chess piece to move at which time to make sure good interventions are made. However, when I arrive in Dhaka I can’t sit around and only study. Action is also needed. For example, on how we’re going to continue with the currently ending SIDBP-program (Support to the Implementation of the Bangladesh Delta Programme).’

Discover together

‘Adaptive water management is crucial. Social-economic developments go fast, we’re dealing with a climate and ecological crisis: we’re investing in an unknown future. If you do this in adaptive way with short cycles, taking the latest insights and expected developments into account, you can make small but meaningful interventions towards a shared vision. How we can give this form in Bangladesh is something we’ll need to discover together.’

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