By Karen Kun, Waterlution President

Wow, there has been so much change. It is hard at times to know how we are all going to come out the other side. There is so much to read, absorb, discuss, and depending on one’s circumstance, it seems like there are multiple ways that people are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. Challenging on so many levels; missing friends, feeling isolated, uncertainty around jobs, and at times enjoying the easing of daily pressures that were so common in our pre-COVID lives. For me personally, what comes to the forefront of my mind everyday are the most vulnerable individuals, families and communities in Canada and around the world, that are suffering with loss of income, lack of social services, water access (for all the hand washing we need to do), and the many people experiencing this dreadful illness.

Like everyone, so much changed for us at Waterlution since mid-March. Over the last 7 weeks we’ve adapted all our programming – developing new approaches and ways to innovate and doing our utmost to keep each other motivated – trying to lead with a positive attitude. So with that in mind, please allow me this moment to share what Waterlution has planned for 2020 (as best we can predict at this time), and also to give more detail on our Water Innovation Lab-Global (WIL Global 2020), as we have been getting many questions – hopefully some of them can be addressed in this blog post. You can also join us for our one of our WIL Global info session on May 19 and May 21st – RSVP here.

Waterlution Projects and Programs 2020

Over the last 2 years, our youth and school-based project the Great Canoe Journey was delivered across Canada and came to a close in March. It was a phenomenal learning experience for our team and thousands of youth that learned directly from and with our youth advisors, talented canoe builders and cultural educators. Please check out the Impact and Outcomes Report led by Olivia Allen and her team. In the near future, we will open a new call for youth advisors, we have a new youth project on the horizon that requires fresh ideas and energy from a new cohort of youth leaders. Please check out our social media channels (@Waterlution) as we will make announcements there. We are looking forward to building on our learnings from the last 4 years of Youth Advisory Boards, and are adding more to our youth program’s virtual model, and preparing extra special events for when we can once again gather. 

Karen and Olivia in B.C. together from earlier this year.

My full congratulations go out to our Creative Director, Chris McLeod, as he launched the 2020 programming for Great Art for Great Lakes. In April, we commissioned 5 artists from Lake Erie and the Grand River region, and together the artists and moved all the workshops online. For those interested in participating, the first workshop with Great Art for Great Lakes TV is next week, where they will be hosting a series of live, interactive workshops as they work towards the completion of new public art pieces.

WIL Brazil and WIL Lebanon are in full swing. Applications are open – both Dawn and Dona have done an incredible job with their teams as everyone continues to adapt (heads-up to anyone moving programming to virtual platforms – it is a lot of work!).

Now for WIL Global

Thank you to our wonderful partners for their flexibility. Everyone has been very supportive and trusting us in how we design this new online learning and training experience, and we are very grateful.  Thank you to all those who have applied so far. We have applications coming in across Canada, Brazil, Lebanon, Africa and Europe. There have been many great questions coming in that we can now shed light on.  

We are offering two online info sessions for WIL Global 2020 (two are offered to assist with time zones). 

Karen and Megan, the WIL Global Co-ordinator, in B.C. in early 2020 planning WIL Global

Dates and times:

Info Session #1 Tuesday May 19 at 9 a.m. Eastern (Toronto)/ 15h00 for Continental Europe. I will be joined by Jonas Heffels from the Netherlands

Info Session #2 Thursday May 21 at 12noon Pacific time (Vancouver)/3:00 p.m. Eastern (Toronto).  Find the time in your time zone here

During the info sessions  I will review the schedule in more detail and will share some insight on how Waterlution  is geared up to lead an engaging training program in a virtual setting (be ready to get to know other participants from around the globe).  And you will be able to ask questions too.

We have been running WILs globally for 5 years and we’re really keen to continue building the WIL Global community. We have  learned that teams work better when they are geographically closer and have similar contexts. We are encouraging applications with colleagues, friends, local networks and clusters nearby that will allow you to continue building and working in your local networks. You will work together on place-based scenario planning and co-develop local water innovations.   

Karen and Dona together in Toronto, ON before social distancing began

One element we are really excited to bring to life is “Living through Theory-U” which will be led by our WIL Global Lead, Dona Geagea, and our friend and long-time WIL colleague, Jonas Heffels. In our past WILs, time goes fast as so much is packed into the programs. But by looking at the positives of an extended online program, we are now able to provide much deeper training on the Theory-U process, and go into deeper levels that are rarely shown at WILs due to these time restraints. We are also going to be able to live the Theory-U process over 5 months, which we’ve never before been able to do. 

Next is the scenario planning component of WIL Global. Never before have I seen the word “scenarios” appear more in mainstream media – at WIL Global we have the opportunity to use our current global situation as a learning tool, and also applying it to our water themes and contexts. One of the observations often cited post WIL is that people wish there could be more depth given to scenario planning and that they could be designing scenarios relevant to their region, watershed or work needs.

At WIL Global there will be three scenario planning training sessions; we aren’t looking at one big scenario but training all participants so groups of people or individuals can create scenarios relevant to their local context. I cannot wait to see all that will be created!

Please check out the updated schedule as we have made small adjustments. We have been learning from recent online trainings, and aside from the opening session (3 hours) will keep all sessions to 2 hours (or less) and have removed one session in July. We have been practicing every tool we know about making online training engaging, fun, dynamic and interesting and are very pleased with what we have in store for WIL Global (more new ideas to test). Instructions will be given in the welcome booklet, on how to prepare and more detailed schedule and process tools we will be using throughout WIL Global.

Additionally, wonderful resource guests will be bringing to life the two principle themes, on Coastal Communities and Resiliency and the Water-Food-Energy Nexus. We are still looking to centralize the learning to British Columbia, but we also have wonderful global resource guests, whose knowledge will showcase global water challenges and innovations and will ultimately deepen the WIL global network. 

The coast of beautiful British Columbia – the centralized location of WIL Global

Indigenous voices and learning are a very important part of Waterlution’s work and WIL Global is no exception. We are working with our indigenous friends and partners in British Columbia to explore how to best bring Indigenous learning online and to a global audience. Its a unique situation trying to create space for culture and placed based learning in an online environment, but we are working together and getting creative.

During the July 30 session, where we will design and deliver and Open Space where Olivia and Dona will be guiding participants in leading conversations to get a sense of water innovation project ideas you want to put forward. As we move through the program into the second half, seed funding for these projects will become more prominent. 

In early August, we will assess if we are able to proceed with field tours scheduled on Sept 26th, only for those in close proximity to Delta BC. It breaks our heart to give up the field tours, as we worked so hard to bring them together. We shall see what is possible in the months ahead.

During the last year, we have been developing a variety of new WIL models and new projects across Africa’s regions, stay tuned as these develop more, and we hope to be able to travel later this year or in 2021 to work alongside many great African organizations.  

While we know there are many challenges, we are also really looking forward to this year. One benefit, about going virtual is that there are more scholarships than usual available for students, indigenous participants  and underemployed young professionals. If you are among one of these groups do not let cost be a barrier to your participation in WIL Global – request a scholarship and we will do our best to help you out! We look forward to seeing you virtually.

Follow us on instagram @Watelution to learn more about Resource Guests and programming in our daily posts!