Levers of Exchange
S03E06 Joaquin Viquez, Technical Advisor, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit
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.
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)
Season 3 is funded by a generous grant from the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, at the Saïd Business School, Oxford University.