SWEP in Stockholm – How can we move water entrepreneurship forward?

We travelled to World Water Week in Stockholm this year, representing both our respective organisations and – for the first time – the Swiss Water Entrepreneurship Pact (SWEP)!  We were eager to see what insights we could gain on how to move water entrepreneurship forward as a collective. The annual gathering of water experts, organisations and businesses was no disappointment. We met many professionals who were also interested in innovative ways to encourage water entrepreneurship. We connected with many like-minded individuals and organisations that support our vision.

We were particularly pleased to see that discussions are shifting towards unlocking private finance and leveraging the power of multistakeholder collaborations to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. The fact is that billions of people still lack access to clean, safe and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene. Four out of five countries on the globe still do not sufficient financing to meet the SDG targets (UN Report). At the same time, public finance and development aid alone are inadequate to tackle the challenges. We were delighted to see that many sessions in Stockholm explored innovative ways in which private money can be channelled into the sector, especially through blended finance.

Is that good news for water entrepreneurs? We certainly think so. If no one is to be left behind, we need to change the way we look at the water sanitation challenges. Entrepreneurs have a key role to play.  But they can only do so if market players collaborate to create an enabling environment that supports change, facilitates the flow of private capital and encourages donors and investors to take risks.

We were also encouraged to see many entrepreneurs participating at the conference. The agenda included opportunities for entrepreneurs and enablers from around the world to showcase their products. Antenna and cewas launched the online toolbox “Safe Water Business Perspective”. This platform provides factsheets paired with real-life case studies. It also contains easy-to-use tools to professionalise safe water businesses working around Point-of-Use solutions.

Cewas, in collaboration with Young Water Solutions, promoted 20 young professionals who participated in the incubator programme in Switzerland in August. They pitched their business ideas and connected with global experts.

The Toilet Board Coalition (TBC) convened two sessions linking business with sanitation: a joint session with the Container Based Sanitation Alliance highlighted new and exciting models for sanitation and what this means for governments in terms of costs and opportunities in achieving SDG 6. The TBC also hosted an event featuring their newest member, Veolia, to discuss the “new grid” approach they are advocating, a combination of classic engineered solutions and decentralised solutions to provide optimal sanitation solutions, globally.

A very special highlight of the week was our meeting with the water entrepreneurship enabler organisations held at the Norsken Foundation. 30 people came together to discuss ways to improve collaboration and support more entrepreneurs on their journey. We had a very fruitful discussion! To see the huge potential and the synergies that can be developed comforted us in our vision that by working collaboratively we can have a larger impact. We are currently building on the synergies created in Stockholm, forging new partnerships and developing events and activities focused on water entrepreneurship. Stay tuned!