Hans Goossens, Water Europe First Vice-President talks to us about his election, priorities & steps ahead
Following your election as the first Vice-President of Water Europe, could you tell us a few words on how you see this new role?
With the new board structure with five vice-presidents, we bring our members’ representation closer to the operational heart of our organisation. As a member-based platform, I think it is of vital importance to understand the needs and fulfil the expectations of our members. The new governance structure will allow us to do this even better than we have done, so far. I’m grateful to see how our member base has grown throughout the last years, but there is no reason to get complacent. The challenges for the water sector are big, and so are the opportunities. Our members are eager to find the right partners to turn their knowledge into new insights, to turn their ideas into new technologies and to get the support of an empowering legal framework in order to build new sustainable businesses. Water Europe wants to be the forum where all this happens! In my new role, I want to strengthen our association as an engine of innovation and transformation, inspiring not only members but also all stakeholders to build a water-smart European society.
What are your Water Europe priorities and what activities you foresee for their implementation?
When looking ahead, clean water and its access to, have never been so key to societal development and welfare building as in this era. Fighting the COVID pandemic is a true short term priority, but in the medium and long run, the flourishing of our society very much will depend on how successful we will be in making our water supply climate-resilient. This will in the first line not that much depend on Water Europe, but more on the actability, agility and not at least on the impactability of our members. I believe this is where Water Europe truly adds value and can make a big difference. Based on the network we are, based on the diversity of knowledge and expertise we bring together, based on the voice we have to mobilize society, we will support our members to get things happen! So I see the priority of Water Europe to understand even better where it can support its members, with knowledge, with insights, with relationships, with influence. We need to build our organisation as a stakeholder centric organisation. Thought leadership is just not enough to make the impact that our members are striving for. We need to increase our inclusiveness, and unlock even more commitment and creativity. I want Water Europe to conduct an in-depth exercise on our stakeholders’ experience, how we can accelerate the realisation of their ambitions to build a water-smart society and what they need for doing so.
Which ones do you consider the strongest tools of Water Europe in its effort to achieve a Water-Smart Society?
Our “Holy Bible” is our Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA): it is our stronghold, inspiring policy makers, researchers, technology developers, water service providers and water management authorities to join forces in building a sustainable, robust, resilient and dynamic water-smart society for Europe while strengthening Europe’s contribution to global societal challenges and the global water market. Our “Holy Trinity” are our Collaboration Programme, our Advocacy Programme and our Market Programme. Our Collaboration Programme allows our members to network and collaborate with all players in the eco-system to address the water challenges and shape successful project consortia; our Advocacy Programme makes sure that the value of water for our society is reflected in European policies and funding programmes and our Market Programme enables our members to bring their research results and innovative solutions to the market in Europe and beyond.
The water sector is very much fragmented. As the representative platform of the water sector, how do you see Water Europe strengthening its involvement of many different actors?
This is where Water Europe has a truly unique position. We bring together problem owners and solution providers, we make sure knowledge generators can meet technology developers, we channel citizens’ concerns and interests and bring them to policy makers – we are not just a voice, we make a full choir. Rather than fragmented, I hear a polyphonic ensemble. By the way, being Flemish, I am very much fond of polyphonic music. It lets us discover the beauty of the individual within the harmony of the collectiveness. Dissonance generates creativity, just as the conflict of ideas generates innovation. I see the role and involvement of Water Europe as the one of a conductor – our members play the music, and we let the magic happen!