Exploring living labs: innovating for water security

Photo by: David Ellis, Future Water

Living labs – where experimentation meets innovation – are sparking a revolution in problem-solving. These real-life environments champion co-creation and open innovation, offering a ground for the birth of novel ideas. Defined by the European Network of Living Labs as user-centric innovation ecosystems, they are the breeding ground for collaborative research and innovation within real communities. Their rising prominence owes to their unique ability to tackle intricate challenges while considering the needs of diverse stakeholders-citizens, governments, industry, and academia.

In the context of addressing the pressing challenge of water security in the 21st century, one proposed solution is water-sensitive design. This approach revolves around diversifying water sources, leveraging both centralized and decentralized infrastructure, nurturing ecosystem services in built and natural environments, and fostering socio-political support for sustainable water-centric decision-making. Water-themed living labs are a tangible manifestation of this vision. These labs serve as dynamic testing grounds, focusing on realizing the objectives of water-sensitive design. They provide a real-world canvas for exploring and refining innovative ideas aimed at ensuring water security.

A student from the Future Water Institute at the University of Cape Town, South Africa is conducting a study that seeks to unravel the key characteristics of living labs honing in on water-sensitive innovations. The study launches with a brief survey, an initial phase in a comprehensive case study. Its findings will guide future engagements, shaping the narrative of water-sensitive innovations in these labs.

If you are actively involved in a water-themed living lab and over 18, we extend our warm invitation to participate in a survey.  The survey is anticipated to take approximately 3 minutes. Your anticipated participation is immensely valued – its key to unlocking innovative solutions for water security!

If you have any questions please email [email protected] and we will forward your request.

Pato Gonzalez-Marquez

Patricio (Pato) Gonzalez-Marquez is an ISCN Intern, currently completing a Master of Arts in Climate Action Leadership at Royal Roads University. Pato was born in Mexico City and immigrated to Canada at the age of 15 years old. Now, based in Victoria, British Columbia, Pato is a self-proclaimed climate nerd with a deep passion for communications and environmental psychology.

Big Idea(s) for Advancing Sustainability in Higher Education

What does the world need most right now?

The world is in desperate need of empathy and connection. The increasing polarization of ideas regarding climate change has made it difficult to understand one another. Policies, actions, or ideas supported by some are heavily opposed by others, sometimes creating rivalries more divisive than a football match. However, a clear image may not be as clear when seen from a different perspective.

I believe our lack of understanding for others’ perspectives has created an environment where we look for those we agree with and alienate those who don’t. Finding common ground, as difficult as it may be, is crucial for solving a common problem. Perhaps learning from those with opposing perspective is the best way to understand and address everyone’s needs in the face of an uncertain future. Empathy and connection for one another and our shared planet is a must.

Leadership and Inspiration

What does excellent leadership look like to you?

Excellent leadership can take many forms. I believe excellent leadership is primarily characterized by the ability to influence others to achieve a common goal. It is the ability to help others achieve a common objective, regardless of the obstacles in the way. However, in a world with overwhelming uncertainty, leadership becomes increasingly difficult. The skills of a good leader will be different depending on the task at hand, but a good leader will always guide others towards a common goal, especially in the face of uncertainty. Therefore, excellent leadership is to navigate unpredictable challenges and master uncertainty to achieve a common goal.

Tenacity and Perseverance

The Climate Emergency we face feels like the greatest challenge of our lifetime – what keeps you inspired?

In the face of imminent climate disruption what keeps me inspired are the people close to me. Spending time with friends and family, especially outdoors, takes my mind off the hardships of enduring climate action. Caring for others and enjoying our shared interests helps me cope with the difficulties of the climate emergency and keeps me inspired to continue striving towards actionable solutions.

Fun Fact

Favorite activity in your spare time?

In my spare time, my favourite activity is training my dog Olly and going on long hikes with him. I love teaching Olly new tricks and seeing how excited he gets when exploring new places.