• Written by Mark Charmer
    29 August 2015

It was Akvo’s 9th Stockholm World Water Week this week, and the team we branded #Stockholm9 wrapped up yesterday.

Photo above: The Akvo #Stockholm9 team. Thomas Bjelkeman, Mark Charmer, Bert Diphoorn, Emeline Bereziat, Joy Ghosh, Jeroen van der Sommen and Alvaro de Salvo. Friday 28 August 2015. (Gabriel von Heijne)

Here’s our video of the week, shot by Alvaro de Salvo. Below I’ve also listed out some of the highlights.

Bringing everyone together at the Dutch embassy.

150 people attended the drinks reception we jointly hosted with Aqua 4 All, IRC, Netherlands Water Partnership and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We were close to venue capacity (but never above it!) for most of the evening and the atmosphere felt really good. I hope we impressed on everyone the diversity of our organisation, with British and Argentinian door staff welcoming visitors as they arrived at the Netherlands Embassy in Sweden.

New 4-screen demo setup

Our new 4-screen demo system was great. Akvo’s Stockholm software development team had specced and tested a powerful system that powered four SWEDX screens. It allowed a lot of flexibility for demo staff including Joy, Emeline and Thomas as we could show multiple windows at the same time. It’s an approach we definitely want to take forward in future events and exhibitions.

A new way to describe Akvo

We’ve spent a lot of time this summer working on how we describe ourselves better. A new website, and a printed nine year timeline-foldout emphasise how we support partners in three main processes: Capture – Understand – Share. The response was very good I think – it felt natural, which is the best kind of messaging. When it just feels right.

Our first time convening a major session

This was the first year at Stockholm where we were invited to co-convene a full day session in the World Water Week programme. Along with DHI, @aqua and Deloitte. The session was full to capacity (sorry to those who couldn’t make it inside). Akvo’s Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson keynoted and then chaired a session that involved a range of speakers talk about their use of data collection to improve water and sanitation services. Jeroen van der Sommen also ran a workshop on the monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals, and empowering rural communities with the use of smart phones. We’d worked with Swedish tech giant Ericsson to do a site visit for delegates, and a packed bus went to see a range of innovation activities related to information technology and water.

Adapting to a different venue

In terms of what wasn’t so great, the venue itself has moved into the centre of Stockholm. While this is fantastic from the perspective of it being easy to reach and lots of nice places around to go, the layout of the conference centre was pretty complex. Our location in an exhibition tent at first did not feel promising – but we had a continuous stream of visitors pass by and didn’t need to invest effort in drawing people inside. The layout of the event made it difficult to find people, though, and internet connectivity was very patchy. But in conversations with the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), which organised the event, it became clear that it’s really difficult for them to accommodate the complex set of requirements needed at the event, at any Stockholm venue. We understand the difficulties and know it’s going to be in the same place next year, so we’re keen to engage at an early stage in the coming months, to give input on how we can make the venue work better.

Missing the WaterCube

Having produced the Stockholm World WaterCube at this event in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, I was curious about the format of the “SIWI Sofa”, an on-site video studio. However, the reality was a huge disappointment. A closed interview schedule, and a format that posed dull questions to high level, pre-arranged visitors. It totally lacked the ethos of bringing to life the real issues from the conference floor and the open “anyone can come in” ethos we worked so hard to engender. It’s as if no-one at SIWI learned anything from our joint collaboration in the past – I think they need to try harder to build out their institutional memory. They should take a look at the www.watercube.tv content that lives online.

Other highlights

Amongst a wide variety of meetings and demos, a highlight was our agreement with US-based mWater and UK-based WaterAid that we will collaborate to develop a way to exchange water point data between Akvo FLOW and the mWater platform. This will dovetail with ongoing work around the WPDX standard which continues to evolve. Our joint goal is to provide partners such as WaterAid, one the world’s leading water-focused NGOS, with a short and medium term solution so it can use both FLOW and mWater across its global teams and NGO partners.

Bert Diphoorn has recently joined Akvo as a senior advisor on external relations, and this was the chance for he and Jeroen van der Sommen to talk together with global development banks, UN agencies and other high-level organisations to discuss how Akvo can support them. Bert knows a huge range of people at the event and was able to describe our work and make introductions to the #Stockholm9 demo staff.

It was great to have Joy Ghosh and Emeline Bereziat on the Akvo stand, showing our work around the world. Akvo was originally incubated by the Netherlands Water Partnership, and their gadget guru Rik lent me his new Bubl camera, box fresh from San Francisco. Here’s a shot it took, on the Akvo stand.

We got a batch of our distinctive black Akvo.org t-shirts printed in advance and many people commented on how easy our team was to spot – “you guys are everywhere!”.

We talked to hundreds of people through the week and have tried hard this year to gather all the names. We’ll be following up with all those spoke with, and look forward to getting to know you all better.

On a personal note, it was my first time at the event since 2012 and it was wonderful to see so many friendly faces – you know who you are. I’m really proud to feel so at home amongst a group of people committed to tackling global water issues. You’re a great bunch, guys.

See also:

Akvo sessions at Stockholm World Water Week 2015 (20 August 2015).

Akvo #Stockholm9 team – World Water Week 2015 (18 August 2015)

Mark Charmer is a co-founder of Akvo, and is director of communications.

Co-founder and communications director.