Introducing the Watershed Protectors Water Lab, apply today!
Last week we announced our new Collective Action grants that reflect our continued emphasis on collaboration and finding innovative solutions for pressing environmental issues. The Collective Action grants will focus on climate change and land use, and so are not directly targeted at water projects. We are pleased to announce that we have another program we will be offering to a select watershed group – the Watershed Protectors Water Lab.
Albertans have become increasingly concerned about the availability and quality of our water. Industrial, agricultural and residential demands for water continue to increase and put pressure on the health and integrity of our rivers and lakes. Recent floods, and the potential long term influence of climate change, have renewed conversations about ecosystem health, cumulative effects, and how to plan for the future of Alberta watersheds. Watersheds themselves are complex systems, and the people and groups tasked with protecting Alberta’s water resources operate in a diverse structure of multi- stakeholder engagement and activity, environmental monitoring, and the creation of integrated management plans.
Our expertise is not in developing watershed plans or diverting hazardous waste. This important work is done by the water community. Our role is to invest in and support the water community because we believe in their cause and commitment to protecting the public interest. In this role, we recognize the need for a better approach to collaboration that goes beyond convening and discussing issues. We need to consider new ways to address the increasing complex nature of environmental problems and a “Lab” approach is a potential avenue to do this.
What is a Lab?
Frequently referred to as a Change Lab, or Design Lab, a Lab is a safe and creative space to discover new solutions to complex problems. As an approach to social innovation, Labs recognize the reality that conventional planning and responses to environmental challenges are often insufficient because they are unable to address dynamic and generative complexity. Similar to how research labs are used to incubate and experiment with new ideas in the realms of science, medicine and technology, a Change Lab aims to generate new ideas in the social realm.
Fundamentally, a Lab is a space where a diverse group of committed leaders gather to develop a common understanding of a problem, and then work together to develop new solutions. Participants in the Lab engage in an ongoing process of learning and team building to heighten their understanding of the system they are trying to shift – ultimately leading to an improved capacity to work together and effect change. For groups dealing with the complexity involved in managing and protecting Alberta’s watersheds, a Lab presents a unique opportunity to engage all stakeholders and find new solutions to water issues.
Who can participate?
Watershed stewardship groups, WPACs, and other nonprofits who are working on water issues will be eligible to apply through an expression of interest. We are currently finalizing the criteria and guidelines to apply, with the details being posted here later this week. Groups who are interested in participating can contact us for further details and information.
In the meantime, interested groups can review the following articles which introduce the Change/Design Lab idea and framework.
- The Reos Change Lab: Addressing Complex Challenges with Social Innovation
- Change Lab/Design Lab for Social Innovation
Program details and the criteria for participation are now online. Interested parties can apply through an Expression of Interest.
The deadline to submit an expression of interest will be September 21.
The Lab will officially begin in late October/early November.
Funding for the Water Lab has been generously provided by RBC. Learn more about RBC’s commitment to the environment as an Alberta Ecotrust partner.