Sharing knowledge and building leadership from City to City

Written by Kimberly Wakkary, on 28 March 2018

“When people work together, their voice is stronger” says Quan, associate professor in Hydrology at Vietnam National University. Nguyenhong Quan together with Berry Gersonius (IHE Delft) brought together four cities in Vietnam to sit down and share their issues, experiences and knowledge with each other, participating in the “building leadership capacity to drive city-to-city learning on climate adaptation” project, also referred to as City-to-City.

Getting started on climate change adaptation

Vietnam is a beautiful country famous for its alluring scenery and rich biodiversity. However, the country has consistently been named as one of the world’s most susceptible countries to the consequences of climate change. Farmers along the Mekong Delta are already starting to feel the heat: their irrigation water is becoming too salty, which has unfortunate consequences for their crops (read here about a project on desalination in Vietnam). Consequently, these effects can be disastrous for both Vietnamese society and the economy.

Climate adaptation problems are shared not only along the Mekong Delta, but also regionally, and even internationally. While some have found solutions to one problem, others have not, and vice versa. Sharing knowledge is thus an integral part of development and key to finding solutions. In this spirit, IHE Delft, in collaboration with Vietnam National University Centre of Water Management and Climate Change (WCC) and the Asian Institute of Technology (AITVN), launched the City-to-City project in 2017. City-to-City aims to provide people the ability to build better institutional and human capacity to accelerate progress towards climate change adaptation. The project does so through a leadership building programme where participants share knowledge on issues they face and exchange their experiences dealing with such issues. The outcome of the programme is that the participants know how to get started on learning on climate adaptation, how professionals can define problems and assess their cities’ learning needs, and how they can build leadership capacity to drive city-to-city learning.

Knowledge sharing network

The project was executed in four medium to large sized cities: Ho Chi Minh, Can Tho, Da Nang City, and Quy Nhon. These cities sent representatives who participated in two training workshops on building stronger leadership skills. All participants wrote a personal leadership plan, detailing their strengths and their weaknesses. “At first, people assumed that leaders are people who are ‘the big man’, ‘the boss’, such as CEO’s, chairmen, presidents, rectors. But we showed them that everyone can be a leader in some way” says Quan.  Additionally, participants engaged in “InterVision” meetings. These InterVision meetings were moderated by Quan, and participants were encouraged to openly discuss issues regarding climate change adaptation, but they also raised questions regarding e.g. waste and export.

For example, Quan says, “the representative from Can Tho expressed his concern for plastic bags polluting the river, and asked how to effectively manage the plastic waste. The representative from Da Nang then gave examples of what his city did to reduce plastic waste.” Da Nang and Can Tho are also cities that are listed in the 100 Resilient Cities list by the Rockefeller Foundation, with Can Tho only being recently added to the list. “The representatives discussed with each other their experiences and how to follow up on, and implement, a resilient city plan – and how you can create such a plan.” These participants formed a, somewhat informal, knowledge sharing network. In general “creating an environment in which topics can be openly discussed is not always easy” says Quan, “you can only get such information if you are good friends, then you can easily ask this.” However, Quan overcame this challenge, and participants spoke openly about their challenges and freely shared their knowledge with each other.

Keeping the network alive and active

The project was finalised in late 2017, but Quan is hopeful that the network they have built will remain. The Vietnamese government has not yet allocated funds to city sharing networks on climate change adaptation, but participants have taken initiatives themselves. They have created a Facebook group to stay in contact with each other – keeping the network alive and active. The impact of the project might not be immediately visible. However, when the participants, most all young professionals, grow into leading positions, the impact of the leadership building workshop and the advantage of a knowledge sharing network will have more tangible impact. 

This story is written in collaboration with Dr. Nguyenhong Quan (Vietnam National University).

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