Unconference 2021: Brisbane – Sydney – Toronto – Santiago

by Frederick Bouckaert

The IWCAN 2010-2011 (and 2010-2013) cohort, never shy of taking initiative, created the Unconference in November/December this year. The Unconference was named as such to indicate that everyone could take part in organising this, rather than a select few setting the agenda for this ‘reunion’ activity, open to all IWCAN alumni.

Three people took on the challenge to organise this across three time zones, trying to make sure as many people could participate as possible.

Part 1 was held on Sunday 29 November, accommodating time zones from North and Latin America, Australia, and a midnight session for Europe. Part 2 followed on Thursday 2 December, and accommodated European participants in the morning, Australian at night and probably an impossibly early time zone in the Americas.

The Unconference consisted of three parts. First, in a series of presentations there were alumni keen to share a story about their current work, or their career path since graduating or even earlier. Second, there were the incubator sessions, designed to workshop Integrated Water Management problems in the way we used to do our problem based learning assignments. And thirdly, there was a session on mentoring for the alumni cohort that graduated this year, offering opportunities to network and establish mentorship partnerships.

Presentation topics included ‘Reimagining the role of water for the city and it’s citizens’, by Farhana Rifat, ‘Water sensitive cities planning and designing for resilience’ by Camila Teutsch, ‘Giving back pace to the Rhone river for flood protection and biodiversity’, by Piotr Bednarz, ‘Big shoes – Restoring the topsoil and water resources on 25% of global arable land’ by Sharon Marks, and ‘Changing focus: from local catchment management issue to basin river health condition in Australia to integrating basin governance and management in global perspectives’ by Frederick Bouckaert.

The incubator session provided some really interesting discussions around three topics that were explored using a mural (an online whiteboard for posting ‘sticky notes’).

  1. Bringing emotion into science and water management
  2. Institutional and Governance Challenges: ways of working, funding, and disasters as catalysts
  3. Authentic integration

The second and third topic were merged as many aspects were part of the same challenges. It is impossible to reproduce the interactive sessions, but we will leave you with the images which may inspire you to reflect on the complexity of integration water management.

Finally, the mentoring session lay the foundation for members of the 2010-11 cohort to link with the 2020-21 cohort for mentoring activities, either one on one or in a group of people interested in similar mentoring topics.

We hope that the Unconference will inspire the next 10-year cohort (2011-12) to carry on the torch of reaching out across cohorts, and generate some interest to repeat this event. It would also be nice if this would be the start of a ‘twinning’ program for mentorship, whereby the 2011-12 cohort will reach out to the 2021-2022 cohort so that integrated water management continues across time and cohort generations.

I would like to thank Piotr Bernadz, Angie Lockrey and Karen Delfau for making this happen, and making us aware what an awesome bunch we are, spread around the world!