GS2018: The Interview Blogs – #ResilientCities Edgar Westerhof & Nicolas Soenens

The Interview Blogs highlight the experiences of Global Shapers: Generation 2018, the workflow coaches, executive and senior leadership team members, and a board member from The Lovinklaan Foundation. The #ShareTheStory team interviewed these individuals with specific interview questions geared towards their unique experience during the face-to-face program, October 13 – 17, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Today, an interview with Edgar Westerhof, Arcadis National Director for Flood Risk and Resiliency and workflow coach for the workflow #ResilientCities, and Nicolas Soenens, Global Shaper of Generation 2018 and workflow captain for the workflow #ResilientCities.

How did you get involved with Global Shapers and #ResilientCities?

EW: I was asked to participate after I learned about the #FutureCities theme. I work with resiliency in the US and that’s how I got engaged with #ResilientCities. We are engaged with some work in Boston so it was a natural fit.

Why is #ResilientCities important to you and to Arcadis?

EW: Water is a substantial thing, it connects risk and opportunity; that’s all coming together in #ResilientCities. Resilience is not just about water, it’s about the urban heat island, poverty and the whole urbanistic mix of challenges that can be advanced through resilience planning – if you do it right. So hopefully with all those challenges you try to find the common thread and brand the whole thing resilience and if you invest the right way, one plus one will be three.

Tell us about your #ResilientCities workflow team.

EW: Yesterday (first day of the program) I had no idea where this was going, but when I came in this morning I saw all the stuff on the walls and the structure. They were discussing the history, the future and the current situation, and the solutions to better play around that. And that’s exactly what you need to do. They are making their own interpretations of the workflow which I wrote. I am curious of the presentation they have to give at the #GrandFinale. They gathered a lot of material and that collateral information needs to be captured as well.

Tell us about your #ResilientCities workflow.

NS: The resilient workflow’s assignment is to convert an area in Boston, Fort Point Channel, into a new neighborhood while keeping in mind the potential of the area and also taking into account resiliency to climate change. In Boston, in 100 years, the sea level will rise 7 feet and this area is very vulnerable. We are trying out to figure out what are the stakeholders’ needs and what would our idea need to look like to please all of them. We are planning a short-term solution, that we can implement now, and a broader long-term solution. The short term is feasible and wouldn’t cost that much; it would give a taste of what is possible for the area. The long-term solution would be broader and out of the box, and it would require more investment.

How do you feel about working in a multi-cultural environment?

NS: We are a diverse team for #ResilientCities with people from India to Europe, there was a bit of a challenge at first. My other captain, Dibya, is from India and at first it was a little weird to work together. Whenever I would ask her a question, she would say “yes” but would also shake her head side to side – then I wondered “is it a yes or a no.” In Europe, that movement is seen as a “no” – every time I was pitching an idea or asking a question, I thought she was saying “no”, but she really meant “yes.” That was a bit of a challenge, but other than that I think it’s going okay. We have to take into account other people’s cultural differences.

What needs to happen to make Global Shapers a positive experience?

NS: For this to be a positive experience, I think that everyone should have the feeling that he or she contributed. That they had a chance to use all their talents, and that no one felt left out. #ResilientCities is really trying to look after everyone and continuously ask and give feedback, to get everyone in the loop. I think the end result is very important, if the end result is good, I think everyone would be happy.

What’s the one thing you want other people to know about Global Shapers?

NS: Global Shapers is a program where we get to meet a lot (a lot!) of new people, where you need to step outside your comfort zone, but you get a chance to work on exciting projects that will definitely shape the future of Arcadis. You definitely have an impact coming to this program.

How will you create a ripple effect after you get back?

NS: To create a ripple effect, I would tell my direct colleagues about my experience and share our outcomes of the workflows with them and with my broader network to get the buzz going. I want to encourage people to apply next year, I think it’s a wonderful program and everyone should take the opportunity to apply.

The Interview Blogs were powered by the #ShareTheStory workflow and the blog interview team, including the Shapers that were virtually present at the f2f program. 

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