Dec 01, 2020

How the new, digital World Water Week is taking shape

World Water Week 2021 will be held entirely online and that requires some rethinking. Here the new director Henrika Thomasson talks about how SIWI is working to redesign the Week ahead of 25 January, when session proposals can be submitted. A Call for abstracts to the Scientific seminars was published on 23 November.

Just like any year, World Water Week 2021 will take place towards the end of the Swedish summer, 23-27 August, to be precise. But this year, there will not be thousands of water enthusiasts descending on Stockholm since the whole event has moved online in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. What does this really mean and how is SIWI working to transform World Water Week 2021 into a full-scale digital event?

Here are three questions to SIWI’s Communications Director Henrika Thomasson who is leading the work to develop the new, digital World Water Week.

Why is World Water Week moving online 2021?

“This decision was taken to ensure that the Week can be held at all next year. The theme Building Resilience Faster cannot wait until after the pandemic – we need these important discussions now.  World Water Week is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to influence global decisions like the climate summit COP26. Covid-19 has also accelerated the need for faster transformation when it comes to how we use and manage water – and it has highlighted the importance of collaboration and partnership. So, offering a digital World Water Week in 2021 was really a given.”

What is the biggest difference with a digital event?

“Just as with meetings in real life, it’s all about creating value together with participants and convenors. But the tools are different – with a digital format, we must work harder so that it is immediately apparent what is on offer and make sure that we meet expectations. To compete with everything that is just a click away, we need great topics and speakers attracting broad audiences, but also opportunities to learn, share and network. Short speeches, lots of interaction and clear outcomes. We are designing formats that will support this – drawing on for example talk shows, TED talks, documentary films and roundtables – and will be using the amazing digital tools now available for structured, well-moderated, and inclusive interaction.

We also need to reach out more broadly, so marketing and outreach are more important than ever. We are fortunate in that World Water Week is something dear to many and that we can rely on our unique network of convenors to help us to reach out.

World Water Week has for many years grown incrementally, managing to engage more and more groups, also beyond the traditional water sector. With a digital event, we can speed up this process and involve even more people with different backgrounds so that water perspectives get mainstreamed into all aspects of society.”

What is happening now?

“The Call for engagement started on 23 November, when we opened the Call for abstracts for the Scientific seminars. Between now and 24 January we hope to receive a broad range of interesting research abstracts related to the nine seminars organized by World Water Week’s Scientific Programme Committee.

The next phase starts on 25 January, which is when we open the Call for proposals for various session types. We are right now working to design the different session formats so that they meet the diverse needs of World Water Week’s participants and convenors. More information should soon be available on what it will look like and what it will cost. It is of course important for us to offer real value for money, with state-of-the-art solutions that are engaging, seamless and intuitive to make it is easy for convening organizations to create great content. It is fascinating how fast the digital conference scene has evolved and matured in the past few months, so we really feel we’re on the way to something truly memorable!”