Hello and welcome to the Waterlution blog!

We are thrilled to share our stories with you right here every week. We’re pleased that members of our team will be sharing tales from the field wherever that takes us—Canada, the Great Lakes basin and across the globe. If you’ve already started to navigate our brand new site, you’ll see that we talk a lot about connecting people, building 21 s century skills, facilitation practice, and of course, water!

It is the eve of another Water Innovation Lab (WIL Europe The Netherlands) and I am very excited to share the start of this journey with you. An incredible team of facilitators, resource guests, mentors and participants are gathering for the 2nd of five WILs happening in 2017.

People that know me best will know that I am an avid traveler and big believer in global networks. Between myself, and co-founder Tatiana Glad, we have lived in 16 countries and our most inspired work and initiatives have sprung from our travels, the people we have met and our work abroad. This is why I am resolute in my belief that by creating opportunities for individuals to make connections outside their own backyard is one of the most fundamental ways to approach – and ultimately solve – the complex water issues we face today.

Our WIL model has grown substantially since its inception in 2010 in Canada. WILs have since taken place in Scotland and India and are about to take place in the Netherlands, and later in the year in Portugal, Colombia and Brazil for 2017. This might seem like a huge leap to move internationally, but it was a natural shift since as an organization, we’re constantly opening ourselves up to global partnerships and creating a leadership learning style that incorporates the importance of these connections and bonds in better understanding water’s relationship to each other. We are thrilled by the international presence of people from Canada, Northern, Southern, Western, Central and Eastern Europe, Mexico, Pakistan, Egypt and India—all willing and eager to share and learn new viewpoints and perspectives to incubate ideas they can bring back to their respective communities and careers.

We look to these WILs as a way to facilitate a meaningful dialogue that otherwise isn’t happening in this way. Expanding beyond the skills taught in institutions of higher learning, future water leaders need to cultivate a 21st century set of skills if they are going to advance beyond the limits of the previous generation’s ideas and technologies, and make the dramatic advancements needed to secure healthy water systems across the globe. Our WIL model creates this very opportunity for multi-sector collaboration, individual and team skill-building which incubates the innovation mindset needed to meet increasingly pressing water issues while developing the leadership skills of tomorrow’s workforce.

Our WIL Scotland was a leap forward in our understanding and strategizing of the global potential in young people who came back to us wanting more opportunities to work with experienced practitioners in a familiar and cozy way. We had 20+ nationalities present during that gathering and I cannot contain my excitement, as I know that our Netherlands WIL trip will grow even more opportunities and robust connections. Since I left our WIL India trip on January 29th, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t see WhatsApp messages from participants moving ideas forward that were incubated in India. I can feel how powerful the global networks are and the outcome of these partnerships continuing to grow as participants rely on each other through the trust and expertise they experienced through our facilitation.

As a facilitator, I’m constantly tapping further into cross-disciplinary options to further this initiative and shift water issues from large scale to small scale. I am dedicated to providing young people with options for this kind of experiential learning and adapt our methods constantly as technology and social engagement changes. The one thing I cannot do is force people to show up. This is the most important step and I urge you to connect with our previous and current WILs on our website and see for yourself how rewarding and empowering these experiences can be for you.

Check back soon for a full report on WIL Netherlands. We hope you’ll follow along and join us on our many WILs to come!

– Karen Kun

Coming up next week…our Great Art for Great Lakes Project Lead, Chris McLeod discusses the importance of art as a tool to inspire and connect communities across our beloved Great Lakes.