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Once-in-a-lifetime water learning “unconference” begins today

Thursday, October 21st 2010 10:54:07am

Media Release
250 young leaders converge in Alberta; Vancouverite cycling to Lab

(Exshaw, Alberta, October 21, 2010) Today, engaged young Canadian leaders representing every corner of the country are arriving in Alberta for a once-in-a-lifetime learning event that focuses on protecting our most precious natural resource: water.

The Canadian Water Innovation Lab (CWIL), beginning today until October 24, 2010 amongst the breathtaking natural beauty of the Rockies at YMCA Camp Chief Hector, located between Canmore and Calgary, is an unprecedented gathering. It’s been dubbed the “unconference for uncommon young leaders.” These 200 young leaders range in age from 18 to 35 and were selected based on demonstrated passion for water. CWIL will be teaching them the skills, insights, and connections to champion water management issues throughout the Lab, aided by fifty facilitators who were trained at the Banff Centre earlier this week.

Kristian Dubrawski, a chemical and biological engineering PhD student at the University of British Columbia, was so keen on attending CWIL he left Vancouver for YMCA Camp Chief Hector last week—by bicycle. Even though he had not applied for CWIL, he embarked on his journey October 14 “on a wing and a prayer,” hoping the organizers would allow him to participate anyways. CWIL looks forward to welcoming this road warrior, whose PhD research is in water treatment for First Nations and developing world communities. He will arrive in Banff at 4 p.m. local time today.

CWIL’s mission is to develop leadership capacity, spur community water-related projects, and place water resource management issues prominently on the public agenda. Topics to be covered include water as it relates to climate change, agriculture, municipalities and infrastructure, mountain and coastal ecosystems, and energy.

Hosted by Waterlution – A Water Learning Experience, CWIL is a natural extension of Waterlution’s mission. Waterlution has already hosted more than 35 workshops in nine provinces for over 750 youth and 100 policy-makers, scientists, business, Aboriginal, and community leaders — exceptional people looking for creative solutions to our complex water resource management problems. Water holds a central place in the Canadian imagination. Waterlution builds on that emotional connection to get water 
issues onto centre stage. “Water is absolutely the number one issue we’ll be facing this century,” says Karen Kun, Waterlution’s co-founder and Director. “In Canada, it’s something we take for granted. We don’t understand how closely it touches on every aspect of our lives. Waterlution’s goal is to help people understand that and learn the skills to create concrete positive
 changes in their hometowns.”

Rather than a typical “talking heads” event, participants will learn experientially through field trips and one-to-one interactions with mentors such as water resource practitioners, policy makers, activists, educators, and Aboriginal and community leaders. These mentors include such water luminaries as R.W. (Bob) Sandford, the EPCOR Chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of United Nations “Water for Life” Decade; Alex Salki, a research biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans; Tony Maas, WWF-Canada's national advisor on freshwater policy and planning; Professor Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, joint faculty member in Social Work and Aboriginal Studies at the University of Toronto; and David Henderson, Managing Director of XPV Capital Corporation and a member of the 2009 Top 40 under 40.

“New and long-term pressures threaten our water resources but our current policy and management approaches are woefully outdated,” says Kun. “There is a need for a safe 
space — spanning generations, sectors, and cultures — in which solutions can be developed collaboratively. That is what CWIL is all about.”

October 21 to 24, 2010
For event schedule, go to http://www.waterlution.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/AGENDA_CWIL_final-Oct15.pdf. Media is invited for opening night, field tours on October 22, and the closing presentations.

Opening night: October 21 @ 7:30 p.m.
Field Tours: See agenda
Closing presentations: October 24 @ 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

YMCA Camp Chief Hector
For directions, see: http://www.ymcacalgary.org/web/Default.aspx?cid=3482〈=1

Photos and updates:
Media photos will be taken the weekend of October 23/24 and uploaded to http://waterlution.org.

To get instant, daily updates from the Lab, follow @TheLab2010 on Twitter.

Click here to see which cities the unconference attendees are from.

For more information, interview participants and/or the organizers, and attend as media, contact:

Karen Kun, co-founder and Director, Waterlution – A Water Learning Experience

Victoria Goodday, Program Coordinator, Waterlution – A Water Learning Experience

About Waterlution – A Water Learning Experience

Founded in 2003 by social entrepreneurs Karen Kun and Tatiana Glad, Waterlution is a water learning organization that brings together young leaders interested or working on water-related topics – for peer-to-peer and inter-generational programs. Workshops and activities often take place over a weekend or are customized to work with partners and groups at selected events.

To date, Waterlution has already hosted more than 35 workshops in nine provinces for some 750 youth and 100 scientists, business, Aboriginal, and community leaders, and policy makers — exceptional people looking for creative solutions to our complex water resource management problems.