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Water Innovation Lab 2013 - Canada

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

**UPDATED NOVEMBER 2016 – Below is the post I wrote in 2013 after returning from the 2013 Water Innovation Lab. I thought we would revisit the post in preparation of the January 2017 Water Innovation Lab taking place in India – Enjoy!!**

Without the physical environment in which to stand,vocabulary and science are merely words. BUT without vocabulary and science, we may not realize the true magic of the awe in which we stand.

It is truly a rare event in which we find ourselves completely immersed in deep conversations and everyone around us represents a piece of the whole. Where each of us holds a special ingredient to a magnificent experience that bonds us to one another. Where environment and thought do not collide, yet rather reinforce the majesty of one another.

Such was the spectacular series of moments during Waterlution’s 2013 Water Innovation Lab (WIL2013). Designed as a learning space for water wonks across Canada, and with the sponsorship of some amazing organizations such as the Canadian Water Network, WIL2013 turned out to be the most daring series of conversations around water that I have experienced to date. Granted, there were some great resources at the event. The Hostel Bear in Canmore and Tim Hortons Camp in Kananaskis were outstanding hosts. And the team of Waterlution did everything right.

What made the event so memorable was not the incredible view, nightly bonfire, or endless supply of fresh air. Rather, it was the who that

It was the collection of individuals, passionate about their work, willing to share their ideas, and most importantly, willing to engage in open dialogue.

Conversations were centered around water. And like any river,  the movement of discussions were fluid. Flowing from topics of Aboriginal and First Nation rights to policy to economics to education to glaciers to floods to climate change to art to candy (yes, candy, see below) and so on. The conversations began first thing in the morning and morphed throughout the day into the late night crackle of a raging bonfire. They were lighthearted, intense, emotional, philosophical and introspective. There was no shortage of good minds to share with – and this is the most outstanding part of it all – EVERY INDIVIDUAL IN ATTENDANCE HAD SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO SHARE.

Our prelab workshop began with a tour of of the Columbia Ice fields with Bob Sandford, the EPCOR Chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of United Nations “Water for Life” Decade, and Jocelyn Hirose who specializes in glacier research in the Columbia River Basin. (Bob is also the author of a book I suggest in another post for fall reading.) They led us through what can be described as nothing less than a fascinating weave of history, science, personal experiences, and grounded facts that allowed our imaginations to melt with the various glaciers and lakes we explored. The following day we had the opportunity to investigate one of the City of Calgary’s treatment plants and explore the intersection of art and engineering at Bowmont Park with City representatives.

That evening we began the second half of our experience as our group doubled in size for the kickoff of the Lab. Ilana Ben-Ari and Gonzalo Riva from 21 Toys re-introduced us to the importance of playtime through creative dialogue. After an evening by the fire, we started the following day with Simon Jackson of the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition and moved into one of two streams – Pitch Bootcamp and Strategic Conversations. From there, our days were peppered with insight from various participants, resource guests, and thought leaders.

As participants and resource guests assisted the Pitchers, there was an uncanny buzz of excitement that lasted well into the night. There was a frantic movement of people, ideas, and conversations as we migrated in no particular order to help one another. I led a discussion around the characteristics of leadership and found myself growing at every turn in dialogue. There was beer and wine to be had by the bonfire. There was music and dancing and drumming. There was even an informal adoption of a song written and sung by Fraser Mah.

As the event came to a close, newly formed relationships were solidified with tears. Contact information was shared. Notebooks of new ideas packed away. People moved to their cars or one of the buses. And like all great moments in life, this chapter was turned to a new page.

This is truly one of those events that you must experience for yourself to comprehend the magnitude of inspiration, growth, and friendship.

The conversations, knowledge sharing, ideas, and series of moments can hardly be expressed or shared in a single blog post. I look forward to seeing the progress of the Entrepreneurs with their new business ventures. I am excited for ideas to morph and my own learning to incorporate into my business. Most of all, I am fortunate to have met so many people I now call friends – even if I was the token American learning about the Kinder Surprise*, Smarties, Coffee Crisps, Toonies, and Tuques.

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