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I believe building partnerships is all about human connections, shared values, quality-time and mutual interests. The people we met at the 7th World Water Forum in Korea between 12th and 16th April 2015 were definitely water-professionals, curious about technology and eager to learn and share their stories.

People understand and appreciate our combination of solid scalable tools, that have a human touch, and how they unleash the potential of personal connectivity. They are convinced that training and support is needed to gather proper credible data, and for the embedding of tools into organisations, including governance structures.

Photo: The Akvo stand featured our “hero shoot” backdrop. It was popular throughout the week, as people posed for photographs. Here, two visitors said a brief hello. Photo: Frodo van Oostveen.

For Akvo the forum was the perfect opportunity to meet partners in new sectors we’ve now entered, such as conservation, and to update partners we met during last World Water Forum in Marseille in 2012. As my colleague Amitangshu Acharya highlighted during his presentation about “Producing water quality data digitally: next evolution in data revolution”, a lot has happened since then – our partners have collected more than one million surveys with Akvo FLOW and we are in the development process of Akvo Caddisfly, which we demonstrated to people all week.

It’s Akvo’s vision to develop open-source mobile tools that support partners effectively in the development work they are doing. So we don’t believe in tools by themselves. So we’re always looking for partnerships where there’s an appreciation of the need to build skills to use mobile tools, interest in open-up data-sets for the common good, and with the ambitions to scale.

The conversations at the Akvo booth felt like a dynamic meeting point, a melting pot of discussions, and concrete place for live demonstration of Akvo Caddisfly water quality testing kit. We were strategically positioned on the corner of the Netherlands Water Pavilion opposite China Water and neighbouring Brazil (who will host the next World Water Forum in Brazil (2018).

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Being at the forum is definitely the most effective way to catch up with our network, and learn about latest developments in the water world. We felt like a matchmaker for a lot of organisations as well – we could share local contacts or present work of our partners in different sectors or countries.

To be frank, we were disappointed in the sessions themselves – there was a lack of interaction, no videos or good quality slides, and it turned out that having the forum in two different cities (Daegu and Gyeongbuk) was not the best idea as people were spread out and not a lot of people were present during sessions. But as we are working mostly online we were convinced that being present at the forum with a booth, while keeping our network updated via Twitter, having a session on Water Quality Monitoring (and share video of presentation online), doing live demonstrations and involving people in some fun hero shoots provided good ingredients to build meaningful new relationships online. 

Every person that stepped into our booth was the beginning of a great journey. We have tried to capture most of the stories of people by inviting them to become part of our hero-shoot and leave a legacy behind. Sometimes we started a conversation and then their most important question was…. “can I have one of your goodies to use as a stand for my smartphone” ;-). 

Personally one of my highlights of the forum was to have Amitangshu Acharya on stage, and to inspire us with the mobile data revolution journey. We were part of a session hosted by the Netherlands Water Partnership on Water Quality monitoring (From Ridge to Reef), and speakers from UNSGAB (Koos Wieriks), German Federal Institute for Hydrology (Phillipe) and Deltares (PUB Singapore) (Tjitte Nauta) that provided different interesting views on the topic of monitoring.

Personally I always love to explore the story and passion behind people, and to find out where we could strengthen each other. We’ve met interesting people from all over the world (Benin, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Mongolia, Brazil, Korea, China, Iran, Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Pacific, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Kenya and probably much more!). I was especially inspired by a group of students we met from the Korean University of Engineering in Deagu, but were originally from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh. We will definitely stay in touch with them, as they could become future water leaders.

You’ll find a photo-set for a general impression of my week in Korea here on my Flickr page.

Frodo van Oostveen is programme manager, South East Asia, at Akvo.

Related reading: Akvo’s watercourse – looking ahead to World Water Forum 7 in Korea.