Ms Margrietha (Greet) Vink, UNESCO-IHE Business Director, had the pleasure to be the first guest 'intern' to spend a day in the office to work one day with staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Climate, Energy, Environment and Water Department, who are dealing with water programmes on a day-to-day basis. She found it a really good experience and was very pleasantly surprised that the staff was working with such determination and dedication. Most of them had no time for lunch, some of them started already at seven in the morning in order to be able to handle all the incoming e-mails.
Ms. Greet Vink was interested in seeing how academic knowledge could potentially be used in policy and practice, what type of knowledge needs there are and how knowledge is used for programme ideas and what the procedure is for its implementation. It was a bit disappointing to see that academic knowledge could not immediately be of use as it is often too detailed and too specific for policy makers. The reality shows that information and knowledge needs to be much more adapted to the audience and its use.
Being the first guest of this programme presented nice and new opportunities. Most staff passed by and invited Ms. Vink on the spot for a brief discussion or asked her to sit in one their meetings. Much of the discussions with staff concentrated on the new policy of the Dutch Government to increase interconnectivity between aid and trade.
"After having worked for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs seven years ago, not much has changed in terms of management and operations. Numerous procedures, signatories and levels of approval are still needed today before a programme, project or document is approved," Ms. Vink remarks.
She adds: "It was interesting to see that the staff realize that in many countries there is a saturation in absorption capacity. A layer of innovative entrepreneurs and innovative policy making enables the facilitation of co-creating and interconnecting public and private knowledge providers from the Netherlands and those in the field, as well as Dutch entrepreneurs and local entrepreneurs, and vice versa. Maybe we should concentrate more on the development of talent in the water sector and increase innovative entrepreneurship in our future development cooperation efforts."
Ms. Vink continues: "Another good starting point could also be the professionals trained in the field of water in the Netherlands, the UNESCO-IHE alumni. I believe that policy makers and entrepreneurs should make more use of these talents." The overall experience was inspiring and Ms. Vink would gladly revisit the Department.