I've been rubbing shoulders with various Dutch thought–leaders since I handed my first 2iis business card to the Dutch Ambassador at a Sydney climate resilience lunch in mid–2015.
After various events and meetings since then, last week I found myself on Sydney's Collaroy Beach (site of some pretty severe storm damage in June 2016) introducing a mixture of Government Ministers and coastal resilience experts to each other as part of The Netherlands' week–long trade mission to Australia.
The event I was part of was exploring a range of Dutch and Australian innovations looking to improve coastal resilience to climate change, and how improved collaboration between the 2 countries could accelerate their adoption. As I say, an inspiring initiative to be a small part of.
I saw a lot of future climate solutions during this particular event, but, of all the ideas and innovations I was privileged to hear about, one in particular stood out: The Delfland Sand Engine.
At a time when it's becoming clearer by the day that our human ingenuity is going to be tested like never before if we are to manage the worst impacts of climate change, the Delfland Sand Example is a fantastic example of the kinds of innovations we need to find more of.
Initially planned as a 20–year project, it embodies an approach the Dutch have called 'Building with Nature' – an approach that is currently taking its first tentative steps in Australia under the auspices of CSIRO.
At its heart, the Delfland Sand Engine experiment is deceptively simple: explore a way to manage coastal erosion in a more economically effective way through using nature rather than fighting it.
Five years in and the initial results are extremely promising, but the point of this post is not actually to highlight this ambitious experiment (worthy though it is of highlighting). It's actually to highlight my main insight from rubbing shoulders with the Dutch for the past 18–months or so; and that insight is that 'the right attitude' is at least as important as the idea (if not more so).
The Dutch take this refreshingly open approach to sharing their innovations, underpinned by the view that if they look to collaborate as broadly as possible (including offering their considerable expertise for free), then the economic and social benefits will follow. Part of this is driven by an outward focus that some of our Australian political elites would do well to learn from, but part is also driven by a desire to find the best role they can possibly play in the global issue that is climate change.
It's not perfect, but I for one take renewed energy from every Dutch event I go to and happily encourage all those I know to take a look at how they're approaching some of the world's trickier problems. And to, maybe, experiment themselves with the Dutch way of inclusiveness, openness, collaboration (and optimism!) as they face their own daily challenges.