Water Innovation Lab (WIL) Brazil 2017

WILBrazil 2017: connecting youth to innovate in water projects

By Marina Horta (m.horta@wateryouthnetwork.org) and Camilla Hellen de Lima (c.lima@wateryouthnetwork.org)

Imagine getting immerse in a 6-day experience 24/7 with 70 water young leaders of Brazil and South America with the aim of modeling an existing or new innovation project in water?

Get to know: the Water Innovation Lab (WIL), an initiative from Waterlution that in its 7th round took place in São Paulo, Brazil (WILBrasil). Marina Horta and Camilla Hellen P. de Lima were there and experienced this event in its fullest as participants representing WYN, while Tatiana dos Santos Silva was invited to help the development of ideas as one of the key mentors.

A mix of group dynamics, workshops for developing creativity, field trips for sensibilization were placed in advance of the ideas’ discussion. We have highlighted some experiences and throughout this post you can have a glimpse of the a Water Innovation Lab.

The first days were dedicated to inspire the participants with real life initiatives and also to sensibilize about the urban conflict of streets and rivers through an expedition with Rios e Ruas.

During the field trip, Marina accompanied the group who visited the Lifting Dam of Traição at the Pinheiro River, launched in 1940 for reverting the course of the river in order to bring water to the Billings reservoir. Next, they’ve made a stop at the atelier of Eduardo Srur, a Brazilian artist, famous for his interventions in public spaces for calling attention on environmental problems in São Paulo, with special attention to the rivers: Tietê and Pinheiros. Their last stop was at the Institute Favela Da Paz, an initiative in the south of the city that aims to be reference in sustainability: a house with rainwater harvesting for feeding their toilets, photovoltaic panels for providing house energy, organic compost for producing biogas and fertilizer. An exemplar initiative and everything could be controlled by an app using inexpensive technology such as Arduino.

Mentors’ crew: distinguish people with distinguish knowledge to help.


“I simply loved this day. Since my family is from São Paulo and I come here very often, for me it was very touchy to get to know the Pinheiros River so closely. As our mentor said: it’s a privilege of a few. Its story and present condition made us reflect a great deal. Unfortunately this story repeats in many places of the world, only the protagonists change but the plot remains the same. It’s a sad situation where we see luxury coexisting with trash and not interacting. People are passive. So, the visual interventions of Eduardo Srur places a great importance in sensibilization and subversive action like Favela da Paz as well, have the potential to influence more people to adopt a new life style, responsible and sustainable.”Marina Horta.

Expedition with Rios e Ruas: understanding the invisible rivers of the city of São Paulo.

The closest we got to the Pinheiros River at the Lifting Dam of Traição.

Camilla, at another group, visited the Ambev beer factory and rural communities that use natural wastewater systems for treatmenting their sewage. In addition to the beer production process that they learned about, the company explained the adoption of water reuse after treating it that serves as input in different parts of the factory. The second part of the field trip was dedicated to inspire participants on natural solutions for sewage treatment in rural areas such as by using banana plants.

On the third day, the youths presented and discussed in small groups their ideas (a total of 27 ideas). Camilla presented 5 minutes H2O, a project that proposes to spread the knowledge and create awareness of water problems, solutions, water policies and regulations, worldwide initiatives and other water related topics through a 5 minutes-talk videos  with people that have a close relationship with water (professors, students, water users, government agencies, companies, NGOs etc). It would work on social media with the aim of capacitating people of all ages interested in the proposed field. For more info, click here. Marina’s idea was to co-create a new project she envisioned during the previous day of the event, Water Watch, an app for raising social awareness and monitoring the implementation of public policies on water.

Ideas discussion and group work.

From the 27 ideas presented around 19 were selected to the next stage and went to the idea market where people could hear a little more about them. At a surprise third round the WIL team told people to pick the ideas and create groups of 4-5 people. Some groups had 7-8 people so due to this only 11 ideas went to the next stage. Both ideas from Camilla and Marina were not pushed forward to the modeling phase. Thereby, they had to select another group to join and participate.

“My group was developing a social technology for grouping different knowledge on water as a learning process in Elementary Schools in Brazil, Canada and Portugal. Therefore, it would combine scientific knowledge on water (physical and chemical parameters) when monitoring rivers and streams using small sensors with the school’s disciplines and community. We emphasized the use of these sensors since it’s being developed by one of the group members at the University of Alberta, Canada.”Marina Horta.

“My group was Nu Sens, we used an idea developed in Canada at University of Alberta as a study case to help Rio Doce community better understand the water contamination with water quality sensors.“Camilla

After two and a half days of great group work for modelling these ideas with mentorships and tools from Design Thinking, all groups were invited to present their projects in a 3 minute pitch for possible investors that would provide seed funding for pushing the ideas forward. The result would not come up right after the pitching, and the groups were asked to submit a full project description by December 1st.

We continue keeping our fingers crossed for the girls, but we are sure that despite the result this was a great opportunity to connect with youths and with water in a different manner: a deeper one.

Marina’s group work.

Marina and Camilla in the final day holding their #menosumlixo cup.