World Water Week 2019

This week, Water4 has been participating in Stockholm International Water Institute’s (SIWI’s) World Water Week– an annual event that brings together world leaders, governments, NGO’s, the private sector, academia and funders to discuss global water issues and how, together, we can address them to make a difference. It’s the premier event in the water sector each year, attended by nearly 4,000 participants and 1,200 organizations representing 127 countries. The theme this year, Water for Society: Including All, focuses on how to best reach the “last mile” and ensure that the most poor and vulnerable are not excluded from access to safe water services.

This is the third year that Water4 has attended, and we continue to see the value of our participation in the form of increased learning, information sharing and network building. World Water Week has proven to be a great opportunity to understand the different groups involved in implementing various models of water, sanitation and hygiene solutions. We’ve also had the opportunity to connect with partners we can collaborate with to increase our impact. 

We’ve become increasingly involved in World Water Week each time we’ve participated. Our presence this year included a booth in the exhibition hall, which we are sharing with two other organizations that support safe water enterprises, Danone Communities and UNTAPPED to better highlight safe water enterprises as a viable and sustainable model for providing access to safe water. By bringing three similar organizations together in one space, we can promote each other’s work and the safe water enterprise model as a whole.

Water4’s portion of the booth showcases our NUMA branded safe water solution with a life-size image of a NUMA Nexus retail kiosk, including a miniature version of the filtration system and copper pipes that dispense water into buckets. We’ve had hundreds of people stop by to learn more about Water4, the social enterprises we partner with, and the market-based model we use. As interesting as we think our work is, what’s drawn people in the most is the plinko board at our booth with prizes donated by our corporate partner, Jasco, for everyone who plays. 

We also presented during a panel discussion in one of the sessions, What Do Underserved Consumers Really Want? We were one of three safe water enterprise-focused organizations represented, and we had the opportunity to share some of the insights we’ve been learning about what consumers are looking for when it comes to safe water. What’s most important to them? What does it look like to change behavior around safe water usage, especially when the safe water isn’t free? How do we market safe water in a way that leads to brand recognition and association with safety and quality? How do we train enterprise staff and NUMA vendors how to actively sell water to their customers? 

Finally, we’re part of a safe water enterprise (SWE) community of practice (COP), which consists of eight organizations using a safe water enterprise model that share best practices, create common definitions and frameworks for how we talk about and measure our work, and advocate for our work as a collective sector. This COP originated at World Water Week 3 years ago and is growing in momentum. There are two working groups, finance and consumer, and Water4 is taking over leadership of the consumer working group while continuing to contribute to the finance working group. At World Water Week this year, the COP held a reception and invited hundreds of people to learn more about our collective work. 

Three years ago when Water4 first participated in World Water Week, there were no conversations happening around an enterprise approach to safe water. This year, there was a huge exhibit on market-based approaches in the center of the exhibit area highlighting safe water enterprises as a sustainable model for safe water supply globally. We’ve come a long way! 

It’s been exciting to interact with other change-makers in the water sector and to learn about different approaches that are leading to positive, sustainable change. We look forward to even more engagement next year!