We talked to Dr. Uta Wehn, the leader of the WeObserve Communities of Practice (CoPs) and Associate Professor of Water Innovation Studies in the Integrated Water Systems and Governance Department at IHE Delft. ‘I would encourage people to join the CoPs if they are passionate about citizen observatories. A really great discussion is going on about various aspects of launching and implementing citizen observatories that nobody should be missing out on.’  says Dr. Wehn.

Dr. Wehn explained that the Communities of Practice are an open initiative to any interested practitioner of citizen science observatories, academics, or participants of relevant initiatives, policy makers etc. She highlighted that all participants in the Communities of Practice (CoPs) participate with their professional capacity and jump on board based on their own initiative, as they find it very useful and interesting for their professional and personal development. The current WeObserve Communities of Practice have more than 60 members. Speaking for CoP1 & CoP2 that Dr. Wehn is running, each has about 10 core participants that are very active, taking part in regular teleconferences, sharing knowledge and experience, plus another 10-15 observers.

‘Within the Communities of Practice, the participants collaborate eagerly on definitions of terms and also practically, we move forward on sharing experiences on how we can co-design citizen observatories and how to measure their impact.’, says the doctor.

Dr. Wehn emphasized the different set of objectives and the differing focus of each CoP. She also mentioned that the common sense is that  all CoPs aim to consolidate knowledge in their respective field of expertise. For instance, for CoP1, we would like to be able to provide clear guidance on how to co-design citizen observatories depending on the circumstances and conditions for such initiatives. For CoP2, we would like to be the place that people turn to understand in what ways the impacts of citizen observatories can be captured. We also want to generate concrete success stories on the kind of impacts that COs have generated for specific aspects of decision making processes.’, explained Dr.Wehn. All the aforementioned will be accomplished through the concrete working ways that the Communities of Practice follow. For instance, they had a face-to-face kickoff, they try to meet face-to-face every six months, they have a very active collaboration during monthly teleconferences and they also form task forces on specific activities in between, so that they are continuously making progress. ‘We also have a very structured way of working. We have identified timelines and specific activities that we need to undertake in order to achieve our objectives.’ revealed Dr. Wehn.

About the current status of the Communities of Practice, Dr. Wehn said that the three CoPs are already launched and very active. At the upcoming COWM Conference in Venice, the participants will have the opportunity to take part in the launch of the 4th WeObserve CoP which focuses on the topic of Citizen Science and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The results of the CoPs will be widely disseminated in order to make them available to the large audience of Citizen Observatories practitioners. We asked Dr. Wehn why people should take part in these Communities of Practice. ‘Decision makers can get a better idea of how citizen observatories can help them to engage citizens and involve them, for example in cooperative planning, in new, participatory ways. Citizens can learn how they can initiate citizen observatories that give them ‘voice’ in relevant decision-making processes.’, said Dr. Wehn.

Closing, Dr. Wehn talked us about how she and her team feel of being part of the WeObserve initiative. ‘It’s a nice way of deploying my expertise in knowledge management’, she said. ‘having conceptualized the CoPs, running two of them and guiding the other CoPs on how you can use CoPs as knowledge consolidation mechanism. We Observe has evolved into a very nice mechanism for my team to contribute our expertise on citizen science and citizen observatories, engaging with like-minded peers on the topics of common interest, and help move citizen science into the mainstream.’.