ThinkWater is implementing systems thinking-based water education, research, and Extension programming to better address our complex water problems. Through this implementation, ThinkWater is researching the effectiveness of this strategy (Does ST improve education, research, and Extension programming?) and compiling resources and documentation to enable implementation by others.
As the flagship state for ThinkWater implementation, Wisconsin is innovating, piloting, and researching new strategies and compiling resources and research to share with other states, regions, Tribal Nations, and territories in the United States. Primary components of ThinkWater implementation thus far include the Wisconsin ThinkWater School and the Wisconsin Water Thinkers Network, along with multiple overlapping outreach and professional development efforts engaging small and large groups and institutions throughout the state.
Wisconsin Water Thinkers Network (WWTN)
The mission and vision of the WWTN is to create, connect, and share water community engagement strategies and resources to develop a state of engaged water thinkers. The WWTN is open to all who are interested in learning effective methods to engage others in water-related efforts. A leadership group of those engaged in water issues in Wisconsin helps guide WWTN efforts. The WWTN was developed using a systems thinking organizational model (see infographic) and shares that model with others to improve organizational effectiveness.
The WWTN hosts an annual in-person gathering (usually around World Water Day on March 22) and regional gatherings organized by WWTN members in that region to build relationship and share effective strategies and resources.
Capacity Building and Sharing
The WWTN hosts a monthly virtual community of practice session to build the capacity and share resources to increase integration of systems thinking in community engagement around water issues. These are held the last Wednesday of each month at 12:00 noon, and are open to everyone interested. In the past, webinars were held to introduce key ideas of the WWTN. Recordings of those webinars can be accessed here: eeinwisconsin.org/net/org/info.aspx?s=123715. You can become a member and participate in WTN by joining the WWTN Google group, Google+ community, and/or Facebook group.
Customized Professional Development and Consultation
In addition to the specific programmatic efforts of Wisconsin ThinkWater School and the Wisconsin Water Thinkers Network, ThinkWater offers a variety of other services such as professional development, consultation, and support for individuals, organizations, programs, and businesses offering water education and outreach in the state. This includes:
Workshops ranging from 4 hours to multiple days that focus on providing an introduction to and application of systems thinking in water education and outreach.
Consultation on using systems thinking in organizational development, educational programming and curriculum development.
Wisconsin ThinkWater School
Wisconsin ThinkWater School is designed to capitalize on both increased interest and urgency around water issues and advances in systems thinking to enhance community water education and outreach in Wisconsin. ThinkWater School accomplishes this by integrating systems thinking into program development and delivery. ThinkWater is designed to redress shortcomings and lackluster effects of our current national education and outreach efforts, which stem partly from overreliance on an information transmission model in which educators expect that providing extensive information will change behavior. ThinkWater understands that changing people’s behavior requires changing their mental models, and that this begins with understanding one's thinking. ThinkWater School aims to provide the tools and skills to integrate systems thinking into adult and community water education and outreach. This can facilitate changes in the public’s knowledge and behaviors that lead to healthier water systems in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin ThinkWater School participants receive in-depth instruction in systems thinking, support in collaborative planning, feedback on program plans, and systems evaluation support. This is accomplished through the Systems Thinking Made Simple online course (link), in-person and virtual meetings, and consultation.
Six teams are currently participating in Wisconsin ThinkWater School. The teams are using systems thinking to plan, deliver, and evaluate a diverse array of programs. The teams and their programs are:
Milwaukee Water Commons Team - enhancing Milwaukee Water School, a community education program focused on building community water leadership
Waukesha County Team - working on youth water education, and water-focused outreach to farmers
Green Bay Team - planning a community engagement program focusing on water quality in Lake Michigan’s Green Bay
Pepin County Team - developing an interdepartmental effort to address groundwater quality issues in the county
Lakes Team - developing an innovative model for watershed-level State Implementation planning to address surface water quality issues through building community capacity
City of Superior Team - creating a stream monitoring program to build awareness and generate action to protect urban streams.
For more information about any of the Wisconsin ThinkWater efforts or about ways to implement ThinkWater in your locality, contact Jeremy Solin, Wisconsin ThinkWater Coordinator, at 715.340.0376 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Links to articles about ThinkWater in WI:
Read Wisconsin ThinkWater's evaluation report here: