Best practices for social change and environmental action

A week for water…a model for global conferences

In Best practice, Conferences, Environment, Growth and Development, Policy, Sustainability, Water on August 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm

World Water Week (WWW) is underway in Stockholm.

On the world affairs calendar, there are few events with the rare combination of gravitas, content, and social charm offered by this annual happening in Sweden’s beautiful capitol city.

Full disclosure: A few years ago, I was part of SIWI, the organizer of WWW, and I can tell you that much of the organization spends a good part of the year making sure that the week is filled with high caliber programming, meaningful discussion, and continual opportunities for networking that are as enjoyable as they are rewarding.  SIWI has been staging this amazing event for many years now, and their experience shows in the attention to detail and finely tuned cultural nuances.

In the spirit of imitation as the best form of flattery, it’s not surprising that the organizers of certain other conferences have taken some cues from World Water Week.  Indeed, there are facets of the event that really are models of excellence.  Here are three that come to mind as the week kicks off:

A diverse global audienceThe movers and shakers of the water and international development sectors have made World Water Week a priority on their annual calendars. This is not incidental; SIWI has carefully cultivated the event as the time and place to meet, talk, and get things moving. Attendees come from government ministries in developing countries, global NGOs, research institutes, advocacy organizations, corporations, national funding agencies, and the full gamut of United Nations leadership.It’s a blue-chip crowd.

State-of-the-art media resources.  When I first came on board at SIWI, I was impressed by the diligence given to the needs of journalists covering water issues.  From satellite feeds to personalized scheduling of interviews with prominent participants, SIWI literally works overtime to make sure that the media can cover things effectively (often way overtime, as my former colleagues can attest.)  The piece-de-resistance is the World Water Week press kit, which actually serves as a year-round reference for the field.  Moreover, each year, the kit just gets better and more sophisticated: Check it out.

A great agenda.  This is a conference that sheds light and understanding on every important facet of a very complicated field. That’s not unusual; a lot of events strive to cover everything in their respective domains. What distinguishes World Water Week is the panache with which this all happens. For example, while most conferences feature recognition of some sort…World Water Week features three professionally judged award programs with international standing: The Stockholm Water Prize, The Stockholm Industry Water Award, and – my sentimental favorite – The Stockholm Junior Water Prize.  The ceremony for the Stockholm Water Prize is really something to behold; a black-tie affair in the renowned Stadhuset – just like the Nobel prize ceremony – with the award bestowed by its patron,  H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.  Très elegant!

There’s more to World Water Week, of course. I’ll cover different facets over the coming weeks.

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