On Tuesday 13 October 2020, the NL IHP-HWRP Committee hosted its first ever Valuing Water Initiative Pitch-a-thon! Due to Covid-19, this event was held virtually via Big Blue Button and included the attendance of over 60 people from around the world. In preparation for World Water Day 2021 which is on the theme of Valuing Water, this event empowered young voices to innovate and implement their own ideas on how best we can value water today. During the Pitch-a-thon, four teams of young professionals living in the Netherlands pitched their 10-minute project ideas to an interdisciplinary panel of judges and competed for the chance to win 5,000 EUR from the NL IHP-HWRP Committee to implement their project. With creative ideas, a diverse public and a tight competition, this virtual event was a lot of fun to attend.
Context Behind the Pitch-a-thon
To give a little background into what exactly these teams were pitching, it is important go back to why the Valuing Water Initiative was first created and what it represents. In April 2016, the United Nations and the World Bank together convened a High Level Panel on Water (HLPW) to ensure a comprehensive, inclusive and collaborative way to managing water resources and improving water and sanitation services for all. As one of the co-founders of the HLPW, the Netherlands became an active contributor to the HLPW, including by taking a leading role in establishing the Valuing Water Initiative (VWI) during the World Economic Forum of January 2019. The VWI helped to demonstrate the practical application of the five HLPW principles: (1) recognize water’s multiple values; (2) build trust; (3) protect the sources; (4) educate to empower; (5) invest and innovate. Based on a coalition of governments, businesses, investors and NGOs, the VWI attempts to translate these principles into worldwide practices. By bringing together global experiences and leadership of private and global stakeholders, the VWI contributes to changing the way the world values its water.
Youth as Champions for Valuing Water
In 2021, the World Water Day will be around the theme of Valuing Water. It is therefore important that in preparation for this day, more attention and support be given to realizing the VWI and its five principles. During the Stockholm World Water Week in 2019, it was recognized that in order to effectively carry forth the VWI, it is critical to identify champions of change that will stand up in policy, communities, corporations and youth movements. It is also critical that the implementation of the Valuing Water Principles move beyond just the water sector and connect through interdisciplinary synergies.
As critical advocates for change in their communities, young people are important champions of the VWI. Young leaders can help translate and tailor the HLPW principles to fit their local contexts. It is for this reason, that the Netherlands National IHP-HWRP Committee invited young people living in the Netherlands between the ages of 18-35 years old to pitch their project ideas and win the chance to receive a 5,000 EUR award to make a difference. The project pitches incorporated the HLPW principles and contributed to the promotion of education and public awareness on the value of water and the role it plays across sectors of society.
The Pitch-a-thon began in July 2020 with an open call for video submissions. Young people in groups of maximum five, were invited to digitally submit their project pitches via three-minute videos. These digital video submissions were reviewed by the organizing committee and narrowed down to the best four project pitches. These four finalist teams were instructed to continue developing and finalizing their project pitches for assessment by a panel of experts during the Pitch-a-thon on 13 October. Based on the content of their project pitch, each team was also paired with an experienced expert/professional who guided and supported them in preparation for the Pitch-a-thon. The mentors included experienced professionals from IHE Delft and the Netherlands Water Partnership.
During the Pitch-a-thon itself, the four teams pitched their projects in front of a virtual audience. Each team was given 5-10 minutes to convince the judges and public to vote for them. Following the pitches, the jury panel convened in a separate breakout room to discuss and individually rank the teams according to a set criteria. The judge score was combined with the public vote to determine the winning team that would receive the financial award. Included in this jury panel, were representatives from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Let’s Talk About Water, the European Youth Parliament for Water, Wageningen University, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water, and UN-Water. Through this diverse judging panel, the four teams received constructive feedback on how to improve and strengthen their project ideas in the future. But before the winning team can be revealed, here is a short introduction to the four amazing teams that participated and impressed the public with their VWI pitches.
The Four Competitors
Wat(er) I Can Do Team
The first team to pitch during the event was the Wat(er) I Can Do Team. Their project, Wat(er) I Can Do, is their answer to the call to bring systemic change in the way water is valued. They believe that the best action is well-informed actions at all scales, and that everyone equally is not just able and responsible, but also valuable in this effort.
This team’s proposal is to create a dedicated online platform, which aims to make the VWI actionable and personal by: (1) bringing it to the most basic level of decision-makers in society–to individuals and households, and (2) translating available but mostly specialized or sector-focused resources into simplified information, and doable individual/household solutions. Through this website, users will gain tailor-made advice on how they can decrease their water footprint and take personal action that reflects and respects water’s multiple values.
If you would like to support Wat(er) I Can Do and their important mission to make sure everyone makes every drop count, you can reach them directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
United Wavemakers Team
The second team to speak during the Pitch-a-thon, was the United Wavemakers who aim to empower young people through the creation of an international e-learning academy. This project is a joint venture between the Dutch Wavemakers, the Young Expert Programme and Wetskills. Together, the team intends to create an International Wavemaker Academy that will empower students, athletes and young professionals worldwide with a #TalentforWater. Young people enrolled in this Academy will follow five training videos to learn about the multiple functions and values of water and thereby become ambassadors for their local water sectors. As ambassadors, these young leaders will be able to give guest lectures and readings in their own local communities.
By empowering new ambassadors, this Academy will realize Wavemaker chapters worldwide and thereby create new waves of valuing water. Ensuring a sustainable future starts by inspiring the next generation of water leaders. Through its worldwide training, this Academy will ensure that ‘Tiny drops of action create a wave of impact’.
The third team to pitch their video, was the Documentary team. Through a short documentary intended for all audiences but mainly focused on the younger ones, this team hopes to showcase the beauty of water systems and make knowledge on their importance more accessible. By combining scientific expertise and storytelling, this documentary will help raise water awareness and inspire the future leaders of tomorrow.
The team is formed by a group of researchers from TU Delft. They investigate how climate change will affect coastal and riverine systems, which is key information to ensure people are safe from floods in the future. Their first documentary is a short animated film for children, about how mangroves protect coastal villages from floods, and how protecting and restoring mangrove trees can save lives. The story is told through the eyes of Max, a kid that lives in a coastal village in Indonesia. Sharing this story is key to ensure that future decision-makers are well informed of the value of coastal ecosystems in reducing flood risk, so that all people around the world can take sustainable decisions that protect these ecosystems.
If you would like to get in touch with the team, you can contact them via their emails addresses directly: Claudia Ylla Arbos (C.YllaArbos@tudelft.nl) , Alejandra Gijón Mancheño (A.GijonManchenoemail@example.com) , Stuart Pearson (S.G.Pearson@tudelft.nl).
The final team to pitch their project was the Waterpoort team. As a team of young water professionals who are eager to protect water, its ecosystems and water quantities for current and future generations, this team advocates for the inclusion of young voices in the Dutch water lobbying. The team believes that values of water are not brought forth by policy argumentation, but by lobbying. However, because lobbying is seen as an activity mainly done by professionals and lobbyists, it limits the space for young people to partake in it. The Waterpoort team intends to change this by creating a podcast where different players (ministers, activists or trainees) of the lobby process can partake and share their knowledge. Through this knowledge transfer, young people as well can join the lobbying process and act on their values.
To showcase that lobbying is for everybody and that different approaches can work, the team will organize a debate in Nieuwspoort to raise awareness of youth lobbying in the water sector. This will further be supported by the creation of a small non-profit which will continue to organize debates in Nieuwspoort and advocate for the inclusion of youth. According to the team, supporting young voices in water lobbying is an investment in Dutch institutions, but also an investment in the political system.
The Pitch-a-thon Winner
Because the four pitches were creative and innovative in their own way, each team was at the end a winner. In fact, the competition was so tight, that there were only a few points difference between the two top teams. In the end, however, the team with the highest combined vote from the public and judges was… the United Wavemakers! The NL IHP-HWRP Committee is proud to support this group of ambitious young leaders as they create their International Wavemaker Academy and empower water ambassadors around the world to value water and make every drop count. Congrats to the United Wavemakers for your well-deserved victory!
If you would like to learn more about the different teams or support them in their journeys to value water, please do not hesitate to contact the NL IHP-HWRP Committee at: firstname.lastname@example.org.