Thursday 9th of May, Spark #2, another opportunity to learn and meet like-minded people. The second Spark of the year offered not one, but three distinct workshops; the hydrogen transition, communicating a sustainable value proposition and designing the new Floriade terrain.
After short introductory presentations by Institue for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT), the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and global engineering consultancy Witteveen+Bos, we were off to a start. Seeing the number of participants and the given time we were divided into subgroups and could participate in two workshops. I participated in the hydrogen transition and communicating a sustainable value proposition.
The hydrogen transition workshop, facilitated by ISPT, revolved around a game that simulated how a society would move from fossil fuels to hydrogen. Each ‘player’ was assigned a specific role in the fuel value chain with the goal to earn as much money, whilst track would be kept on how much emissions the society produced. Two groups played at the same time, and were given complete freedom on how to proceed. It quickly became apparent that individual behaviour and willingness to cooperate were key elements. The group I participated in decided to move towards hydrogen as soon as possible. Although there was some mistrust, seeing everyone wanted to maximize profit, we managed to find a balance by communicating our challenges and formulating joint strategies. Meanwhile in the other group, a single player decided to go ‘lone wolf’ and maximize his individual profit to the detriment of all other players and the emissions of their fictional society. It became very clear that a single player could disrupt the whole system and that without cooperation this challenge would fail. This workshop taught us that there is need for a balanced mix between policy, to keep individuals in check and facilitate the value chain, and entrepreneurship, thinking on your feet and devising synergetic strategies, to tackle such challenges.
The second workshop, communicating a sustainable value proposition, took a completely different approach. Starting off with a lecture, by members of TNO, about crucial elements in sustainability communication, we explored topics such as social, emotion, knowledge, time, insecurity, finance and status quo. Afterwards we continued in smaller groups where we experienced the effect of these elements through role play simulations. As master students, entrepreneurs and scientist, we often rely on conscience thinking, logic, facts and figures. In contrast, this workshop highlighted the importance of the subconscious and our emotions. Every role play we went through showcased how logic was influenced by our individual perception. Elements such as sticking to status quo, trust, fear, choice overload and the curse of knowledge were clearly visible and surprised most of us. We tend to make things personal, just by being passionate about the work we do, and I strongly believe we should. However, if we want to successfully communicate the many sustainability challenges and solutions present in our 21th century society, we need to understand and be aware of these elements. Recognizing and accepting them so we are able to work with them and move past them is crucial.
Looking back at this Spark, I am more aware of the humanity of our challenges. How the individual acts in the whole and how our individual capacities can be both a blessing and a curse. The need for cooperation amongst stakeholders has long been identified as crucial. As a society we are at our best when we work together, achieve common goals and grow closer together in doing so. I’m looking forwards to the next Spark to continue this journey.