Students advise Crust Young: Save the World? Focus on Water.

In the Fall of 2012, Utrecht University in the Netherlands offered Crust Young the opportunity to pitch a project for the Innovation Challenge – a contest for a class taught by Professor Paul t’Hart that assembles interdisciplinary teams of the most distinguished undergraduate students to tackle a four month real-world challenge that requires innovative thinking. A team took of up the challenge of advising Crust Young on its business planning for how to get engaged in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and on which goal or topic we should choose to focus. We have invited the Innovation Challenge Team, which consisted of Dominiek Veen, Otilia Ciobanu, Lianne Macke and Eduard Schmidt, to guest blog and present their argument as to why Crust Young should focus on the vital issue of Water and share the advice they have for Crust Young’s next steps on developing its business strategy around this topic. The full advice is available as a PDF here.

There are only two more years left before the world famous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) should be accomplished. The MDGs, which were chosen in 2000, to address the variety of challenges affecting the worlds’ poorest citizens, such as lack of universal education, general equality, maternal health, child health, poverty, HIV/AIDS, the environment and sustainable development. The 191 UN Members agreed to a deadline of 2015 to achieve targets. Of all the formidable goals and targets for each that were set across 8 categories, it is debatable which topic should get the highest priority. Yet no matter from which angle one looks at the Millennium Development Goals, one of he key elements of our sustainability and survival on this planet keeps coming back into the picture: WATER.

As one might expect for a substance so tied to the existence of life on Earth, Water plays a crucial role in many of the MDGs goals; not only within Sustainability which focus on targets for sustainable development for the environment and safe drinking water; but also, for example, in the goals set for  eliminating global hunger and improving sanitation. Without effective irrigation, many areas become unfit for agriculture. Without flowing water, basic hygiene becomes nearly impossible. Clean, fresh water has already become scarce in many parts of the world and evidence suggests that this will only get worse if nothing is done. Due to the growing world population, climate change, and the increasing demand for water by both individual citizens and industry, the need for shrinking amounts of fresh water will only increase. Furthermore, with its roots in the Netherlands, effective water management is already a powerful subject for our country, both feared and loved. Very few other countries have spent so much of their history trying to control the dangers of water while simultaneously being dependent upon the benefits that oceans and rivers can bring. Our famous systems of dikes and dams and Dutch expertise in flood mitigation and water management are exported to cities and countries across the world. Dense urban areas are facing extreme disasters due to climate change that cause harm to human life and vital urban infrastructure that protects and delivers services to urban populations.

Is it time for action? Without a doubt! Expert opinion and advice must help us find a way forward that meets human needs in a sustainable, equitable way.  Given that fact, what could Crust Young contribute to this world of water?

To really understand the world of water, it is crucial to keep a couple dimensions in mind. First of all, like we have already mentioned , water has multiple meanings and multiple applications that are all vitally important somewhere in the world. Secondly, the world of water consists of a highly varied number of actors. From governments trying to protect their countries’ aquatic reserves, to industries where water is of vital importance for their productions processes, the whole world has an innate claim on and need for  water.

Different stakeholders in the public, private and NGO realms all have distinct needs. Technical expertise will be required for some actions, but the Innovation Challenge team also recognizes that organizational guidance around water will almost certainly be needed whether by companies, advocacy organizations or entire nations. Crust Young brings decades of experience in organizational consulting, cross-sector collaboration and public sector management. Therefore, water could bring business opportunities for the firm, which also allow it to respond to the urgent cry for responsible water management practices. Crust Young could help with implementing new ways of working with water in a company which relies heavily upon this resource. It could also be that Crust Young will develop a dialogue between local governments, to enhance collaboration on this issue.

The Innovation Team’s major recommendations for positioning Crust Young as a trusted advisor on the subject of Water are:

  • Be the advisor rather than the expert. There are many experts already working on the right solutions to this problem, but not enough groups around helping to consider how the right ideas might be applied in effective ways. Crust Young may not be filled with engineers and scientists, but its consultants have decades of combined knowledge in organizational capacity and project management. These skills are just as important.
  • Network with the experts – part of being an advisor is knowing the actors in a field. By effectively networking with the major groups involved in water, Crust Young can help build bridges between experts as well as deepen its own relationships with the organizations involved.

The Guardian noted in 2012 that some of the Millennium Goals on water were already reached; but after our research and analysis, we sincerely doubt this is the case. Water was, is, and will continue to be a very important topic to give attention to. By entering into this market an advisor, Crust Young will be able to skilfully help organizations, firms and NGOs craft powerful, sustainable solutions for how various actors, as well as others around the world, value Water. In the end there is no one who can do without water, and thus water must be viewed as a responsibility for all of us.

Dominiek Veen

Otilia Ciobanu

Lianne Macke

Eduard Schmidt