Changing Planet

World Water Week: Best in Design

World Water Week, held every year for the last 20 in design-centric Stockholm, Sweden, is not without eye candy, or for that matter innovation.

By Tasha Eichenseher in Stockholm, Sweden

This post is part of a special news series on global water issues.

World Water Week is no Consumer Electronics Show. I don’t see100-foot screens pulsing flashy ads, nor am I experiencing eager PR agents shoving free gizmos into my hands. And there are definitely no adult entertainment award ceremonies going on next door and spilling onto the conference floor.

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But World Water Week, held every year for the last 20 in design-centric Stockholm, Sweden, is not without eye candy, or for that matter innovation.

Among a modest collection of NGO, government, and corporate stalls offering sleek, and sometimes not so sleek, brochures, several displays stand out from the rest in terms of style.

The Water Cube

Man-on-the-street journalism meets wonky water week. Frenetic water cube workers ushered a steady stream of conference attendees into their fishbowl lounge for quick Flip camera interviews. The close-ups may not be flattering, but it is interesting to hear the stream of consciousness that pours from the mouths of the unprepared and unedited. From high-profile corporate and academic leadership to those implementing projects on the ground around the world, the resulting online mosaic of more than 200 interviews collected over the last two years seems to present a near-complete view of the issues covered over six days of workshops, plenary sessions, and panels.

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The cube is run by Akvo, a European-based nonprofit that connects donors to water and sanitation projects. “Akvo is about injecting Silicon Valley technology and Dutch openness into water and sanitation,” said Akvo’s Mark Charmer during a conference session on stellar examples of media and communications strategies. Akvo was responsible for the following set of fabulous postcards that were seen at World Water Weeks past:

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Soccer Players for Sanitation

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WASH United is a club for people who probably first and foremost love their national soccer stars. But in this context, these idols happen to be delivering messages about safe drinking water, sanitation, and hand washing. Launched in May and timed with the World Cup in South Africa, WASH (WAter Sanitation and Hygiene) United has signed up 24,000 members, according to Virginia Roaf at the nonprofit. “Anyone in the world–ordinary people, political decision makers, organizations and of course YOU–can join our Club and become a Champion for WASH, side by side with the world’s biggest football stars like Didier Drogba, Nwankwo Kanu or Stephen Appiah!” encourages the WASH United website. Members get a club card, and an online profile. There are also T-shirts, and the three-finger WASH United salute.

Depicting Drought

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification has one of those modest booths at World Water Week, but it was housing some pretty interesting art work.

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The UNCCD’s website is a jumble of jargon about general assemblies, intergovernmental negotiating committees, conventions, and resolutions, but on the ground, the organization seems to have plans in place for combating desertification in dozens of arid regions.

Water Features

And of course there is the convention center fountain, which, unfortunately, according to building maintenance and public relations, has no notable water or energy-saving features.

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Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn

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