Management 4 largest Blue Deal partnerships exchanges knowledge

On September 7, the Dutch management of the 4 largest Blue Deal partnerships came together in the Dutch province Fryslân for a meeting. The objective for this gathering was: how can we learn from each other about managing large partnerships?

The meeting was amongst the partnerships of Mozambique, Colombia, Eswatini and South Africa. The managers were invited to Friesland, at the invitation of the partnership manager of Mozambique, of which Wetterskip Fryslân (the Dutch water authority in the area of Fryslân) is the lead partner. This was the third time that the major partnerships organized such a consultation. This time was extra special, thanks to a boat trip through the beautiful Alde Feanen nature reserve.

Topics to discuss

The colleagues exchanged, for example, their experiences with working with a so-called ‘talking sheet’. This sheets makes it visible which Blue Deal topics the partnership is working on, and where there are topics that still need to be addressed. “It helps to establish a relationship of the concrete activities which are implemented with the longer-term goals,” says one of the participants. “Large partnerships deal with many people and interests. Visualising this helps to get an overview of how all our activities contribute to our larger goals, and what we should continue or stop.”

The participants also discussed, among other things, their annual plans for 2024, presented to each other how they have organised their partnerships and discussed decentralization in one of the partner countries. They also covered the safety assessments of work visits, finances, accountability, and much more.

Learning from each other

An important part of the Blue Deal is learning from each other. Therefore, the Blue Deal learning programme also includes a training for new partnership managers. Thanks to this joint intervision of the partnership managers, the 4 largest partnerships are now going one step further to exchange knowledge with each other.

Busy InspirAgua summer

Slowly working towards the summer, for many people this applies in the months of June and July. But this was definitely not the case for the Blue Deal programme in Colombia, called InspirAgua. 2 work visits took place in June and July, 1 in the Netherlands and 1 in Colombia.

In June, 8 Colombian colleagues joined the first Blue Deal congress in Amsterdam to participate in workshops and field visits, together with Blue Deal colleagues from all over the world. After 3 days of congress the work visit continued with various activities. The Colombians visited a waste water treatment in Zutphen, came to see the challenges we face within the peat meadow areas, talked about ‘adaptive pathways’ and saw examples of the ‘Ruimte voor de Rivier’-project (‘Room for the River’), in which there is more space for water in rivers to avoid flooding and other water related problems.

In July, 13 Dutch InspirAgueros went to Colombia to continue working on the different topics within the InspirAgua programme. Along the Río Magdalena we worked on Nature Based Solutions and a stakeholder network to improve the cooperation of all the parties involved, in order to protect the river and the people. In the northeast we continued working on participatory monitoring and how to actually apply the useful data you gather. The focus in the south was partly on making use of data, but also involved the further development of an action plan for waste water treatment.

Overall, InspirAgua had a productive summer in which we not only worked together on the work that has to be done, but we also managed to strengthen the relationships between our partners and colleagues.

Work visit to Colombia: collaboration, contracts, and culture

During the work visit in February and March, Dutch colleagues within the Blue Deal programme InspirAgua visited Colombia to assist their Colombian counterparts in the regions of Caldas, Santander, Huila, Valle de Cauca and Bogotá. A memorable visit in which the continuation of the programme was endorsed by the Colombian partners.

Agreements for Phase 2 of the Blue Deal were signed with regional environmental and water authorities (CARs) CAM, CAS, CDMB, CVC, Corpocaldas and national association ASOCARS, as well as with the administration of the Santander department and with water companies Empocaldas, Aguas de Manizales, Acuavalle and Aguas del Huila. A new partner of the programme is Andesco, an umbrella organization for public service companies. Cormagdalena will follow in April.

Cooperation agreements

InspirAgua’s CAR partners formalized the agreement at the ASOCARS General Assembly, in the midst of the impressive nature of Nuquí on the Pacific coast of the Department of Chocó. There, 21 Colombian CARs gathered for this annual meeting, where they also signed the ‘Alliance for Protected Areas of Colombia’.

Director of the Dutch water authority Rijn en IJssel, Rudi Gerard, explained the method of water governance in the Netherlands, followed by Michelle Talsma of STOWA, who emphasized the importance of collaboration in knowledge development. A retrospective on Phase 1 and preview of Phase 2 of the programme was given by Ellen Bollen, programme manager of InspirAgua. Director of the Dutch water authority De Dommel, Marit Borst, signed the cooperation agreements on behalf of Watergraaf Erik de Ridder.

The programme also aroused interest among Colombian directors who were not yet affiliated with InspirAgua. It has been agreed that the results and knowledge gained will be shared horizontally with all CARs led by ASOCARS.

Working together in different cultures

Contacts and collaboration within InspirAgua intensify as time progresses and goals for 2030 are set. All the more reason to zoom into cultural denominators of our ‘way of working’ for a better understanding and effective cooperation, such as communicating, scheduling, deciding, trusting, and more. ‘Culture coach’ Sylvia van Glabbeek hosted workshops on intercultural cooperation in Manizales and Cali attended by Dutch and Colombian InspirAgueros. Simple examples like difference in the planning of a personal agenda sparked animated conversations and the exchange of ideas, as noted by a participant in Manizales. Work on the relational level is important for the technical and instrumental efforts of InspirAgua members. Interested in what those are? Visit InspirAgua on LinkedIn.

Blue Deal Colombia ‘InspirAgua’ signs new cooperation agreements

On March 9, Marit Borst, director of the Dutch water authority De Dommel, signed cooperation agreements until 2030 with Colombian partner authorities of InspirAgua, the Colombian Blue Deal programme. With these agreements the cooperation between Colombian and Dutch water professionals will be continued for Phase 2 of the Blue Deal.

Since 2018, InspirAgua is active in 5 regions within Colombia. We work on topics such as participatory monitoring, waste water treatment, crisis management, improving water quality and licenses and control. In Colombia, Dutch professionals share knowledge and experience. At the same time, Colombian colleagues bring in more information about coping with drought, flash floods and extreme precipitation.

Results Phase 1

During Phase 1 of the programme, the main focus was to establish a strong relationship based on trust and experience. It brought multiple results, for example in the regions Santander, Caldas and Huila. In Santander, local people were stimulated to collect data about the quality of water to improve decision making on a higher level. In Caldas, we are currently improving the water quality of the Río Chinchiná by reducing the discharge of waste water, without using a sewer system. And in Huila we are helping to organize crisis management, to act more precisely during crisis situations.

Ready for Phase 2

For the next years the work within InspirAgua will keep following the topics that were defined earlier. And as in line with the goals of the Blue Deal, in Phase 2 the focus will also be on bringing knowledge from Colombia to the Netherlands. With the new agreements with our partners, and even a signing with a new partner, InspirAgua is ready for the next years. Agreements were signed with: CAM, Aguas del Huila, CAS, CDMB, Department of Santander, CVC, Acuavalle, Corpocaldas, Empocaldas, Aguas de Manizales, ASOCARS and Andesco. Cormagdalena follows soon.

Work visit to Colombia in June and July

Last June and July, representatives of Dutch Water Authorities travelled to Colombia. Here they worked in 5 regions on participatory monitoring, wastewater treatment, crisis management and other themes. In workshops with regional partners, input was collected for the plan for Phase 2 of the Blue Deal, from 2023 to 2030.

This work visit was part of the Blue Deal programme InspirAgua. Within this programme plenty of knowledge and expertise in water management is exchanged between Dutch and Colombian water professionals. The work visit was concluded with a presentation by InspirAgua with explanations from directors of the organizations involved during Acodal, the network conference for (international) cooperation in the Colombian water sector.

To get an impression of one of the projects that was visited, watch this video on LinkedIn.

Work visit to the Netherlands

At the beginning of October, InspirAgua will receive Colombian colleagues in the Netherlands during a technical work visit on water governance in Colombia. Using the three-layer model, the development of a governance network in Colombia will be discussed, taking into account its purpose, structure, scope and actors.

During the visit, attention will be paid to drawing up recommendations for national policy in relation to integrated management of water resources ‘PNGIRH’ in Colombia and the new national development plan. Wageningen University & Research is organizing a reflection workshop on work experience in an international context and knowledge development in water management.

Want to stay informed about the activities within InspirAgua? Follow the program on LinkedIn.

Colombian delegation visits the Netherlands for Blue Deal

A delegation of Colombian directors from the water sector visited the Netherlands from May 8 until May 15. The visit was part of the Blue Deal program InspirAgua.

Group photo of Colombian directors

Within InspirAgua Dutch water authorities are working together with their Colombian partners. They do this through inspiration and sharing knowledge and experiences with each other, for example on the issue of participative monitoring. This cooperation ensures a further professionalization of water management in both the Netherlands and Colombia. The main goal: better water management and cleaner water for millions of people in Colombia by 2030.

Good cooperation

The visit of Colombian directors from the water sector to the Netherlands underlines the good cooperation within InspirAgua. The delegation was introduced to tasks in water management in the Netherlands. Including water storage, room for the river and the restoration of ecological values. In addition, the directors spoke to representatives of Dutch Water Authorities, various ministries and the Colombian embassy in the Netherlands.

Mutual learning and inspiration

Erik de Ridder, highest board member of the water authority De Dommel and administratively responsible for the InspirAgua programme, is pleased with the visit: “It is important and good to welcome a large delegation of Colombian directors involved in InspirAgua to the Netherlands. In this way they gain even better insight into the work we do within the program. We learn from them and they learn from us. That works best if you can view the assignments together on location. The visit is a confirmation of the constructive and fruitful cooperation between Colombia and the Netherlands and is a good basis for the follow-up.”

Creating joint added value

Luzette Kroon, board member of Dutch Water Authorities and administratively responsible for the Blue Deal, clearly sees the added value of the collaboration within InspirAgua: “We have to adapt spatial planning in the Netherlands to climate change. We can learn a lot from the way Colombia really does that together with its inhabitants.”

First work visit to Colombia since corona crisis

During work visits in September, October and November the Dutch water authorities visited their Blue Deal-partnership in Colombia for the first time in 1,5 year. This provided new energy and a boost to the program. "Digital working is so much different from working together and figuring out where the real problems lie and what it takes to solve them."

InspirAgua is the name of the Blue Deal-program in Colombia. In this partnership Dutch and Colombian water professionals share their knowledge and experience, to inspire each other. InspirAgua focuses on the every day work, to help people and organizations to work together with the right tools.

The necessity of physical meetings

The latest work visit before the corona crisis took place in March 2020. After that, the program continued digitally, but not with the same results as through physical meetings. Ellen Bollen-Weide, the Dutch program manager of InspirAgua: “Technically we could keep working during the corona period. However, we noticed that it was mainly sending information. And that’s a lot different from working together and figuring out where the real problems lie and what it takes to solve them.”

April this year it became clear that it was very difficult to achieve results by working from a distance. That’s why work visits were planned as soon as corona measures permitted them.


The Dutch water authorities visited their partners in Valle del Cauca, Caldas, Santander and Huila. They talked about the annual plan for 2022 and made the plans concrete. They also discussed the agenda for 2022 with all partners involved. Contacts were reinforced and all partners are still very positive about the cooperation.

During these last visits we’ve had some successes in the projects. In Valle del Cauca a new cooperation agreement was drawn up. In Santander big steps were made on topics such as participative monitoring and stakeholder analysis. In Huila the work plan for 2022 was finalized for support of the operational management and maintenance of smaller sewage treatment plants. And in Caldas we’ve talked about a cooperation agreement to support the construction of a sewage treatment plant for the southern part of Manizales (about 250.000 residents).

Let’s go (again)!

Program manager Bollen-Weide: “This past period we’ve set up technical committees, that were eager to start. That’s something we did achieve by continuing our work digitally: our contacts have been maintained and we were able to make a flying start, now that we can really start working together again.”

Lecture: solutions for complex water problems

The KIWI learning programme recently organised a lecture by professor Guy Alaerts about the unruly nature of international water management and solutions for complex water problems.

Water managers worldwide are looking for integrated solutions for complex water problems. Major investments are often required to become climate proof, but finding financing is difficult. Water managers and financial institutions do not know where to find each other and converting globally available financing into concrete projects on a large scale is difficult. Watch the lecture below. The lecture is in Dutch, but can be viewed with subtitles.

Interactive annual conference in Colombia

From 7 to 11 December 2020 Inspiragua, the Colombian Blue Deal partner, organised an interactive annual conference. This marks the next step for even more intensive cooperation between Dutch Water Authorities and its partners in Colombia.

Group of people standing near the construction site for a water basin.
Dutch Water Authorities field visit with partners in Colombia.

In addition to a comparison between the Maas river area in the Netherlands and the Magdalena river area in Colombia, reflecting on the partnerships’ efforts in 2020 and its goals for 2021 were also on the programme. 17 cases from both countries were addressed during the interactive annual conference. Coming together like this helps to accelerate the learning process between Dutch Water Authorities and its local Colombian partners.

Video on the Colombian Blue Deal partnership ‘Inspiragua’

More on the Blue Deal partnership in Colombia

Study: water management knowledge exchange

TU Delft and Erasmus University, in collaboration with Dutch Water Authorities, have launched a study into water management knowledge exchange. The universities are investigating which lessons the Dutch regional water authorities take abroad.

Meeting room with people seated at tables for a traning session. One man is stood, giving a presentation.
Dutch Water Authorities and local partners attending a training session.

As part of the study into water management knowledge exchange university researchers are looking at the lessons learned at an individual level, group level and organisational level. The aim is to find out exactly what effect these lessons have on organisations.


A questionnaire is sent out via the Dutch Water Authorities foreign coordinators. It is hoped that insight can be gained into the possibilities and limiting factors of international knowledge sharing.

More on Dutch Water Authorities and knowledge exchange