“We are lucky people”
We are lucky people, we in North-West Europe, and the project partners of INNERS in particular. Why is that? Take a look at this. We are involved in a project, considering such a marvelous theme as energy in the water cycle. To start with energy. I recently discovered that no scientist really knows what energy is. Of course we have our descriptions of what we can do with energy, but really understanding what it is, no one does. Second, we keep ourselves busy with the most common thing on our planet: water. As any school boy knows, we ourselves consist for about 70% of water. Now here’s the good thing: we are running a project on one subject (energy) no one can really define, connected to another subject (water), as trivial as almost nothing else, and the European Union thinks it is that important that they pay 50% of it. That is a nice thing. And that is not the whole story.
The best part is still to come, since we are doing this project in an international context. That means that a group of about 25 people from six countries regularly take the time to travel to a meeting point to exchange on the above mentioned subjects. Coming from six countries means, combining six different cultures; that is, excluding the additional cultures from outside North West Europe brought in by some employees of the connected institutes, which is great.
Where it all comes together is when we want to communicate. Communication is normally done in English, and it means that 80% of the attendants have to communicate in another language than their own. This takes you far out of your comfort zone, which is very good. Up until now I don’t know whom I should admire most: those attendants who have to struggle to speak English, or the UK partners who have to listen to it. Speaking for myself, this can be quite energy consuming. Anyway, I most of all find it very intriguing, to have to express your opinion, or even your expertise, in another language. I find that enriching, mind broadening (if that is proper English), because you are time and again forced to focus on the very simple question: what is the exact essence of what I want to say? It works like a mirror, making you more aware of how and why you are doing the things you do, also enabling to value the approach others have chosen.
Lastly, as a byproduct of the whole lucky thing, I personally came to have more understanding and one might even call it compassion, for those unlucky people that have to work in organisations like European Parliament or United Nations. Here, the challenges are much greater, cultural differences are far bigger and conflicts in interest are much more intense. The INNERS project taught me never to look down on UN for their alleged indecisiveness in such complicated matters as international policy. After all, it was the EU that managed to make the decision for setting up the Interreg program, and I’m grateful for that, and as I said before, I count myself lucky for it.
For the next blog I invite our partner Lille Métropole.
Herman Evenblij, Waterboard Groot Salland