Social Entrepreneurship in the Water Sector

Social Entrepreneurship in the Water Sector

Getting Things Done Sustainably

Rafael Ziegler, Lena Partzsch, Jana Gebauer, Marianne Henkel, Justus Lodemann and Franziska Mohaupt

There are few sectors where ‘getting things done sustainably’ is as important as it is for the water sector. From drinking water and sanitation to water use in agriculture, industry, and ecosystems, Rafael Ziegler and his co-authors investigate the contribution of social entrepreneurship to the sustainable use of water.

Chapter 3: Roberto Epple - Reconcile with your river!

Lena Partzsch, Justus Lodemann and Léa Bigot

Subjects: business and management, social entrepreneurship, development studies, social entrepreneurship, environment, water


We first met Roberto Epple when he came to visit us in Greifswald in 2010. Immediately upon arrival, he wanted to see our river, the River Ryck, which runs through Greifswald with a length of only 28 kilometres. At the beginning of this change study we did not identify very much with the Ryck, nor did we conceive the river to be ours (we did not even know how to pronounce its name properly). Our research on Epple developed into a socio-ecological experiment, which became our own story of reconciliation with the river we had dreadfully neglected in the past. Like any other water body in the European Union (EU), the Ryck is subject to the Water Framework Directive (WFD) adopted in December 2000 (European Commission 2012). Article 14 of the WFD states that 'the success of the Directive relies on . . . information, consultation and involvement of the public'. In practice, however, public participation is a difficult process. People in Europe hardly identify with their rivers and there are no defined rules describing when and how public participation should happen. Roberto Epple promotes public participation in river basin management and advocates an approach adapted to the natural river flow, allowing seasonal flooding and denying channels and dams (including dismantling old ones and denying new installations). Ashoka assigned Epple as a senior social entrepreneur in 2007 for his innovative approach to the conservation of rivers in Europe and the creation of a bottom-up network.

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