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S03E06 Joaquin Viquez, Technical Advisor, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit

Season 3, Ep. 6

What we discussed: From water, wastewater, biodigestion and agriculture, Joaquin and I talked about how growing up on a farm in Costa Rica influenced his approach to problem solving as well as some of the critical challenges faced by his country. Through his stories, we looked at how the issues he’s worked on are interrelated, and which skills have been transferrable between sectors.

Why it matters: Joaquin thoughtfully pointed out inquiry and curiosity as the critical skills to understanding how systems work and implementing change. He’s not embarrassed to not knowing the answer, and he unabashedly asks “why” as a way of finding out.

What it means for you: That confidence to explore what one doesn’t know is a skill that systems change agents can adopt. Shruthi pointed it out too in her interview – there needs to be a humility in acknowledging what we don’t know as much as we need to recommend best practices of what we do know.

Interviewee’s Bio:

Joaquin Viquez, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, San Jose, Costa Rica

MBA, Saïd Business School and Skoll World Forum Fellow

 Joaquin Viquez is an Agricultural Engineer and a passionate social entrepreneur with 15 years of experience in Latin-American working in environmental projects, water and sanitation. He currently works for the German Agency for Cooperation GIZ in its office in Costa Rica in a regional water and sanitation projects. https://www.linkedin.com/in/joaquinviquez/

 

In this interview, we discussed the following questions:

  • You grew up in an agriculture family. How did that shape your childhood?
  • How do you view problems through experience? 
  • How old were you when you had that formative moment?
  • What were some of the things you tried to do with the extra fruit?
  • You won Technology Review 35 from MIT. That award was given to you for an extension of this idea.
  • What was the technology you won for?
  • Can you elaborate a bit about the methane problem, from the climate side?
  • What were some of the value-added benefits you were able to get to the farmer?
  • How do you personalize a biodigester?
  • What questions were farmers asking of you and what were the factors you could tweak?
  • So how did you pivot working in biogas to working in water? What's the connection there?
  • Can you give us an overview of what are the key issues of wastewater treatment and sanitation?
  • Do different geographic scales (national, regional) have different sanitation issues?
  • Water can be super hyperlocal. How do you deal with that?
  • Can you ever take a technology and plop it into a community, or do you have to tweak for that community?
  • Tell us about GIZ and how it tries to tackle some of these water issues in Costa Rica.
  • What would you say is your critical skill that you're bringing to the team?
  • How important is it to work with local representatives to take care of one's own backyard?
  • What's the web of moving parts that drive towards sanitation outcomes?
  • Water and wastewater - is it more common for one company to manage both?
  • The agriculture / water nexus isn't just watering plants, it's also dissolved phosphorous. Can you explain that?
  • We talked about several different systems and their stakeholder groups. When you're getting introduced to a new system, how do you tease it apart?
  • How do you create systemic shifts?
  • When did you first notice the web of moving parts and when did you decide to do something about it?
  • It's important to notice what's missing! How would you describe the sense of noticing what's missing vs. noticing what's there?
  • The feeling of inquiry and naivety is a benefit of coming in as an outsider.
  • What's your approach to problem solving?
  • Do you see a type of urban development that's more sustainable than others?
  • Most infrastructure tries to centralize for efficiencies scale. But in wastewater you see the opposite, so that localities can take advantage of natural-based solutions.
  • Why is that? What's unique about water / wastewater such that decentralization is preferrable?
  • To a student, what skill would you encourage to learn?

 

About Levers of Exchange:

Interview by Jimmy Jia (www.jimmyjia.com)

Music by Sean Hart (www.seanhart.com)

Website: https://www.leversofexchange.com/

Season 3 is funded by a generous grant from the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, at the Saïd Business School, Oxford University.


More Episodes

8/3/2021

S03E09 Skills that students should learn

Season 3, Ep. 9
Personal Resilience. Vision. Listening, and a sense of curiosity. These were the skills that our Season 3 guests recommended students and early career professionals learn today if they want to enter the sustainability sector. Our guests spanned across telecom, water, finance, maritime, electric utilities and cultural systems. I was curious, are the skills to succeed the same or different? I asked every guest, what skill they would advise a student or early professional to learn. The answers were very revealing.Natalia Pshenichnaya, the former Head of Programmes at the GSMA Foundation tied personal resilience to how this deeper inner awareness keeps the person grounded in what's important to them. Joaquin Viquez, a water consultant for the German Development Agency G-I-Zed, also pointed out the importance of a vision and personal passion.James Mitchell trained as a cellist before creating a career in Sustainable Finance. Now at the Rocky Mountain Institute, he pointed out that just like in a chamber music group, listening to each other, hearing each other, responding and reacting in kind with each other, is a critical skill to learn.Three of our guests, however, pointed out the power of curiosity and asking the right question, including Jeremy McDaniels, now the Senior Advisor for Sustainable Finance at the Institute of International Finance.Stuart Hilen, a Portfolio Developer at EnergyAustralia, put it differently. He considered the skills he looks for when hiring team members.Finally, Shruthi Vijayakumar summed it up beautifully. Questions invite others into our own space, to question with us.So, there you have it. Those are the skills that students and early career professionals should learn. It's not the textbook lessons that will create systems change. It's the interpersonal skills of inviting others in, of making chamber music together, that will create the new systems for everlasting change.Guests:·Stuart Hillen, EnergyAustralia, Melbourne, Australia https://www.linkedin.com/in/stuart-hillen/·Jeremy McDaniels, Institute of International Finance, Washington DC USA https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeremy-mcdaniels/·James Mitchell, Rocky Mountain Institute, London, UK https://www.linkedin.com/in/james20/·Natalia Pshenichnaya, formerly GSM Association, Berlin, Germany https://www.linkedin.com/in/natalia-pshenichnaya-7107781a/·Shruthi Vijayakumar, Education New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand https://www.linkedin.com/in/shruthivijayakumar/·Joaquin Viquez, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, San Jose, Costa Rica https://www.linkedin.com/in/joaquinviquez/About Levers of Exchange:Interview by Jimmy Jia (www.jimmyjia.com)Music by Sean Hart (www.seanhart.com)Website: https://www.leversofexchange.com/Image by Juraj Varga from PixabaySeason 3 is funded by a generous grant from the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, at the Saïd Business School, Oxford University.
7/27/2021

S03E08 What’s your superpower skill in making systems change?

Season 3, Ep. 8
Have you ever wondered if skills that got us to where we are today, may not be the same skills needed to solve the world's most pressing problems? For those who have been listening to Season Three, you know that we interviewed six practitioners who work deeply at the intersection of large systems. What are the skills necessary to thrive at those intersections?Shruthi Vijayakumar, a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum and co-founder of the Emerge Institute, points out that making sense of cultural systems means understanding the historical context and how one fits into the social fabric. For Stuart Hillen, a Portfolio Developer at EnergyAustralia, as an engineer, he found his calling using his problem-solving skills to understand how things work and how things are made.Another trained engineer, Joaquin Viquez who works for the German Development Agency GIZ. He attributed a sense of knowing what's missing rather than noticing what was there.For all of us who work at the intersection of systems, it's communication that is the ultimate skill. Communication comes in many forms. For James Mitchell, Principle at the Rocky Mountain Institute, the stakeholder engagement he had to do in the maritime sector required a lot of listening in order to get the Poseidon Principles launched.Natalia Pshenichnaya, who spent many years at the GSMA Foundation, found new products and applications of how the Telecomm sector could alleviate poverty and improve agriculture businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa. She pointed out the importance to articulate messages in the language and jargon of whomever she was talking to.Finally, Jeremy McDaniels credited facilitation skills at bringing people together across many sectors. As the Senior Advisor for Sustainable Finance at the Institute of International Finance, he interacts with global actors, across 400 institutions and tries to strive for consensus.So there you have it - it's the art of figuring out what's possible. Some of it is curiosity driven, some of it is breaking down big problems into its constituent parts. But time and again, we heard just how important it is to translate between stakeholders - the jargon, the expectations and the underlying mentalities. Hopefully this episode gives you an idea of what skills you have, and what you can develop for a successful future.Guests:Stuart Hillen, EnergyAustralia, Melbourne, Australia https://www.linkedin.com/in/stuart-hillen/Jeremy McDaniels, Institute of International Finance, Washington DC USA https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeremy-mcdaniels/James Mitchell, Rocky Mountain Institute, London, UK https://www.linkedin.com/in/james20/Natalia Pshenichnaya, formerly GSM Association, Berlin, Germany https://www.linkedin.com/in/natalia-pshenichnaya-7107781a/Shruthi Vijayakumar, Education New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand https://www.linkedin.com/in/shruthivijayakumar/Joaquin Viquez, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, San Jose, Costa Rica https://www.linkedin.com/in/joaquinviquez/About Levers of Exchange:Interview by Jimmy Jia (www.jimmyjia.com)Music by Sean Hart (www.seanhart.com)Website: https://www.leversofexchange.com/Image by ErikaWittlieb from PixabaySeason 3 is funded by a generous grant from the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, at the Saïd Business School, Oxford University.