How did your initiative help build resilience to climate change?
Nextblue builds resilience to water challenges such as lack of community involvement in flood plans, through the web-based platform and storytelling workshops, bringing tacit knowledge and experiences to a wider audience. The platform gives people a space to talk about their local water issues and share these with policymakers through storytelling, therein becoming environmental advocates.
After a community-driven story about the Mekong Delta, we conducted a thorough research in collaboration with the Netherlands Water Partnership about water challenges in Bangladesh. After publishing these background stories, we reached out to local journalists and together we identified six different hydrological regions in Bangladesh with the toughest challenges and most appealing opportunities.
Bangladeshi journalists work in these areas where climate change is already being felt and report on the problems linked with that. They know the environment best and could share journalistic solutions and knowledge about the relation between climate, water, and conflict. They report on local measures to tackle these and are therefore both journalists and experts.
What were some of the challenges faced and how were they overcome?
Nextblue is a young and fast-growing platform, with an increasing community worldwide. We work globally with individuals, non-governmental organisations, social enterprises, companies, and governments to put more focus on local knowledge and experiences.
We encourage stakeholders to move away from a one-way approach of sending knowledge and technology, to more collaborations of communication and mutual understanding. We do this by growing an online community and amplifying experiences from the ground there.
Having such a diverse list of collaborators of course brings its challenges. Dutch water organisations tend to focus more on expert knowledge, and we must constantly push toward focusing on local knowledge and learning from it. We experienced inertia from consulting firms who were cautious, but we overcame it by offering them a partnership and opportunity to create well-crafted, custom content for Nextblue readers, with the same journalistic quality as our editorial articles.
Since building our community from scratch, we have made remarkable progress. All people involved still feel the passion from the start and want to be part of the community. People want to be involved in our journey because we value independent journalism, a unique audience, and constructive content.
Will the change that is created by Nextblue continue?
We believe that our change is sustainable as the community is continuing to expand and our content continues to reach a larger audience. We also feel there is a shift in perspective and local knowledge is becoming more valued by Dutch and international water organisations. Therefore, we only see the demand for our content increasing.
Due to this growing community we have decided to update our website with new features such as petition tools to engage with more people on relevant topics and encourage people to become active members of empowering local voices.
We keep in mind the challenges ahead, such as local perspectives that will be less of a priority than those of business players. We are able to overcome that if we position Nextblue as an ecosystem matchmaker, in which we blend different players, media, networking events, and cutting edge local solutions to spark collaborative innovation.
What did you learn so far?
I got inspired by the local communities in the Mekong Delta, and became determined to help improve developments in river delta regions – from the Netherlands to Nigeria, and from Vietnam to the US. Water is what connects us all. But, it became clear that it is hard to convince people, working in more hierarchal structures, of a storytelling approach.
I realized that the coalition is critically important. As is the community-driven storytelling model in which solutions and integration become inspirational, where the stories help narrate the problem into aspirational solutions: yes, it can be done!
After conducting interviews with some key players in the water sector, I only recently realized to seek financial partners and use their drive for results, impact and return on investment; to collaborate with people that have knowledge, but also people that want to collaborate on the implementation.