It has been a hectic and FAST last few weeks. I returned from Europe to Canada in early September to deliver the 10-day intensive H2O Global Leaders Training and Water Innovation Lab (WIL) offered by Waterlution, and to get ready for the next leg of my journey heading to Mexico (building up the Water Innovation Lab Mexico). While the experience was intense and rolled out at a record speed, I recognize the importance of slowing down to reflect. While this is not my full reflection, I share here a “Coles Notes” version of what happened at #WILCanada and the H2O Global Leaders Training:

Jamaica, met Nunavut, met the Netherlands, met Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Ecuador, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Mongolia and everywhere in between from the Canadian East to West Coast! An incredible group of young leaders, who didn't know each other before, had never met and had no idea if they would get along, gathered for the first ever edition of H2O Global leaders Training -an offering by Waterlution that enables leadership and facilitation skills for those "working on water". A truly inspiring experience working with the talented facilitators Chris Corrigan and Dawn Fleming, who held space like magic and reminded us all that just like how the lobster gets uncomfortable in a shell that grows too small/tight for it, hides in a safe space, casts its old shell and produces a new one - we need to nurture spaces that allow the leader in each of us to grow out of its old shell and form a new one, fitting for the kind of leadership the world is calling for right now.

At #WILCanada we were joined by a visit from the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario (if you're not from Canada - she represents the Queen in Ontario) on the opening night to reaffirm her support for this type of initiative that elevates the skillset of young leaders to tackle complex water challenges of the present and future. Bob Sandford offered us perspective on the extreme climate conditions we will continue to face, using the disastrous fires in the west coast as a case study. Many Resource Guests joined us and imparted their knowledge and expertise to the group.

We participated in indigenous ceremonies - around the sacred fire and making birchbark canoes. We sensed from the field and gathered information during field tours meeting with stakeholders in the greater Kingston area and around the Great Lakes. And the show began with an intense and rigorous innovation process. We guided teams around complex water challenges and the ideation and learning loops led the path! It was no surprise to me that the teams that struggled the most, delivered some of the most innovative ideas. 10 Collaborative Innovation Water Projects emerged, and 6 of them got seed funding to begin testing and prototyping their ideas over the next 9 months (outcome report to be published soon).

What is it that never fails at these gatherings? (because many things can go not according to plan!)

By the end of the intense period of several days, strangers become closest of friends, and conspire as colleagues and partners on projects. Ideas become prototyp-able solutions. Music and stories become cultural bonding assets. Setting becomes inspiration and nature becomes the greatest teacher. Expertise and technical training become strengths and/or challenges (depending on how they are employed) in processes of perspective-shifting cross-disciplinary collaboration. Tension around differences becomes an opportunity to apply new skills and tools learned like the Levels of Listening or the Principles of Dialogue. THIS is the power and magic of the Water Innovation Lab.

Every Water Innovation Lab is a world of learning. We never design the process and stop. We keep challenging ourselves on how to improve it to maximize the multiple threads we carry through the design process: content, experiential learning, leadership, collaborative innovation and play.

Knowing what I know about the science predicting the gloomy state of our world in the near future (1 and 2), I see preparing my generation and the next one as so critical to tackling the overwhelming level of change, adaptation, and mitigation that will be necessary in the midst of the complexity and chaos that will ensue. We are our only hope. The question is: how do we work with the seriousness of the reality of our future, while not leaving young people in a state of disempowerment? How do we inspire action?

I was grateful to be holding space with Karen Kun who held the vision, leadership and all the big pieces together and Jonas Heffels who has a unique lens through which he observes the world and imparts learning, and Olivia Allen for all her support and keen spirit to grow her facilitation skills!

#Leaders #YoungLeaders #LeadingintotheFuture #WaterLeaders #TransformativeLeadership #ComplexWaterChallenges #WILCanada #WILGlobal #WaterSolutions #SystemicChange #ChangeAgents #GlobalCommunity

Photo Credit: some photos with credit to Waterlution and Ryan Osman.

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