Blog by Kees van der Lugt

“Amsterdam International Water Web is a global water leaders’ community, bringing together experts from cities, industries and utilities with (applied) scientists to discuss integrated solutions. Or should it be about inclusive, integrated solutions?

Inclusion is a buzz word, however gender equality, integrating generations and cultural diversity should be on our agenda permanently. Not excluding others is something we, at AIWW, find truly important. It is not easy though, as media coverage will immediately present. The middle-aged white man is by far dominant in the media, also in the international water world. How can we change that, how can we give substance to that? Making it more specific: how do I give substance to that, being a middle-aged white male myself?

It is a challenge, going beyond gender balance. It’s also about other cultures, age and anyone else who feels left out. And it is not primarily about numbers, it is about what you radiate and exhale as an organisation. What you believe in.

In reflection, as a leader in the expansion of my team, I unwittingly used to hire people who were mostly like myself. That simply seemed the easiest and most efficient thing to do. We’d understand each other from scratch, interacted easily, would move forward quickly. Now, a few years later, I‘ve changed my mind on this matter completely, being more confident with differentiation. In fact, in the AIWW team I’m one of a kind, as a middle-aged white man. The average age has increased dramatically, having me in the team. Our team consists of more female than male members. However Dutch roots are dominant, we have Indian, English and Iranian team member alongside. A good start.

As I believe in inclusive teams, I also believe that we benefit from an inclusive, integrated solution. Tackling challenges with maximum mixed teams, also from our various target groups cities, utilities and industries. Another bright light is the Wetskills challenges, refreshing every AIWW again because of the varied composition of the participants and the valuable, inclusive and integrated solutions that are presented in a short time. Still, I continue to find it extremely difficult to give concrete substance to it. What handles are there for inclusiveness? And how does it affect our AIWW2021 ‘Community engagement and inter-sectoral collaboration’ subtheme?

I like to challenge everyone, especially my fellow middle-aged white men. If you get the chance to make your voice heard via AIWW, we’ll also like to get suggestions for other sounds. Deviant sounds. If you participate in an event of the AIWW, bring your younger colleague or the one from your network that contributes to a more colourful picture. So that we give content to inclusion and benefit with valuable integrated solutions that actually land in the places where they are needed.

Kees van der Lugt