Sep 04, 2020

World Water Week nominated to Association Awards 2020

World Water Week is a finalist to receive the title Best Conference Development, presented by the prestigious Association Awards. The winner will be announced in October.

The aim of the Association Awards is to recognize excellence among different kinds of professional and trade organizations, through the sharing of best practice examples and success stories. World Water Week attracted the organizers’ interest with its transformation from a traditional conference to a collaborative learning experience.

“We are of course very proud of this recognition. At SIWI we are always looking for ways to ensure that World Water Week is at the forefront and we are glad that others are interested in our experiences,” says Gabriela Suhoschi, Director World Water Week & Prizes at SIWI.

World Water Week started as a small academic conference in Stockholm in 1991 but eventually grew to become the world’s leading event on global water issues. Since its inception, it has played a significant role in broadening the understanding of why water is crucial to all aspects of life. Today’s World Water Week is not only an important meeting place for the traditional water community but attracts a diverse group of people with an interest in development and environmental issues.

The transformation was clearly visible at World Water Week 2019, which is the specific event that will be studied by the Association Awards’ jury. That year, World Water Week moved to Tele2 Arena in Stockholm to enable a new kind of collaborative learning experiences. The session organizers were encouraged to experiment with more inclusive formats, which was very well received by participants.

Compared to most conferences, World Water Week draws an unusually young crowd – one-third of participants are under 35 – and in a participants’ survey, many of them expressed how they especially appreciated the many opportunities for collaboration and learning.

Another characteristic of World Water Week is that almost half of the participants are women, as are many of the speakers. To strengthen the trend, and drive more inclusion, World Water Week a few years ago adopted a Gold Standard that encourages interactive formats and speaker lineups with a good representation of women and young voices. The standard soon inspired other conference organizers to develop similar criteria for their events.

World Water Week has managed to attract an unusual mix of people who would otherwise rarely meet – business executives, students, environmental groups, top politicians, and water experts from both the academic sphere and international organizations all rub shoulders for a week. They come from more than 130 countries and a growing number have a background in fields that would not traditionally have been considered part of the water community.

“This is really what both World Water Week and SIWI are about. To make lasting change, all voices must be heard. And I’m very happy that our partners feel the same way, they are all very committed,” Suhoschi says.

She promises that this spirit will remain the same, even though World Water Week is again about to transform itself after the Covid-19 pandemic has turned the event sector on its head. The 2020 World Water Week was cancelled but an online alternative, World Water Week At Home, made it possible to keep up the water conversation. Gabriela Suhoschi missed being able to meet participants face to face in Stockholm but also felt that the digital format created new opportunities to engage with people who don’t have an opportunity to travel to international conferences.

“World Water Week must always be prepared to evolve to stay relevant and I think it is this attitude that gained us the nomination the Association Awards,” Gabriela Suhoschi says.

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