From October 21 to 24, 2010 Waterlution-A Water Learning Experience was held at the Canadian Water Innovation Lab. Commonly referred to as the “Unconference”, the Canadian Water Innovation Lab focused on one-on-one conversation and the importance of the shared opinions. Recognizing that all participants had important information to share for the benefit of the whole group. The “Unconference” took place at Camp Chief Hector a YMCA camp in the Canadian Rockies, near Exshaw Alberta.
Fifty people well-versed in water issues were chosen from across Canada as facilitators. From October 18-21 in Banff the facilitators participated in special training in “Unconference” style and skills before the young leaders met them at Camp Chief Hector.
Karen Kun and Tatiana Glad founded Waterlution-A Water Learning Experience in 2003, as a water learning organization. For a young organization, they have already made a big difference. Waterlution has hosted 35 workshops in nine different provinces, for 750 youth and 100 scientists, business, Aboriginal and community leaders. Proof of what is possible when skill, determination and hard work are brought together.
With 250 young Canadians in attendance from every corner of Canada, the “Unconference” represented ideas and issues from across the nation. Everyone was able to share her or his opinions, ideas and knowledge with each other, or as part of a larger group. Collaboration was also a very important point, to the ‘Unconference”.
“Water does not know boundaries, so what is an issue in one area, is an issue for all of us.” Unconference participant.
Friday the 22 of October saw participants leave on one of four learning journeys. The Agriculture Journey took participants to two Alberta Foothills Ranches where they were able to learn from ranchers, who have taken ongoing steps to protect the land they depend on in a partnership with Cows and Fish. Learning from stewards of the land, about native grass ecosystems, wetlands, riparian areas and conservation. Discussion and group learning exercises followed, at the Cochrane Ranch House. Other learning journeys included Energy, Municipalities and Infrastructure and Source Water Protection.
The “Unconference” was not just about learning and sharing on water related issues, which are issues that we all face. It was also about gaining a deeper connection to your own knowledge and ideas, and gaining the confidence and skills to lead. The knowledge present when 250 people concerned about interrelated issues gather together is truly phenomenal.
One participant biked all the way from Vancouver to take part in the Canadian Water Innovation Lab, a trip that took several days.
Thursday night Cori Brewster sang beautiful poignant songs of local flavor. Friday night Motus O an interpretive dance group from Banff, acted out stories pulled from the participants. Followed by a drum circle in the main lodge at the YMCA camp, where people were able to let lose after a long day of learning and express their creativity at the same time. So, what do 50 people drumming together sound like? The “Unconference”. Of course there was the dancing on Saturday night, The Kronic Groove, a Calgary based band kept the group dancing late into the night.
On Sunday the 24 of October, The Canadian Water Innovation Lab came to a close, with people heading back to Vancouver, Halifax and all points in between. On Sunday I spoke with a young father from Alberta, who said, “When I first came here I did not know what to expect, now although I couldn’t be happier to be seeing my son and wife again, I feel like I’m leaving a family behind.” Truly we were brought together from industry, government, environmental non-government organizations (ENGO’S), and all walks of life into a strong sense of camaraderie and purpose. The “Unconference” created a splash in the Alberta Rockies, with ripples resonating to every corner of Canada.