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Citizen engagement for INclusive Water management

Imagine a Pokemon Go for Water.

The privilege of travelling connects you to local water experts and local water stories. Especially as I like to do running (strava) I always take adventurous water trails (along the river or around a lake) to explore the local watersheds from nearby. By doing so, I have gained more expertise on a wide-range of water-related topics over the last years. For example, in Yangon (Myanmar), I see a lot of water issues during these runs which encourages me to tackle these issues. Everyone who lives around a water source is probably an 'unknown water-expert' but lacks awareness and training to become a qualified or acknowledged water professional.

Last year I was shocked (or surprised) about the popularity of Pokemon Go in Yangon. The city was flooded with people walking around with a smartphone to collect or catch Pokemons. Families were combining their morning or evening walks to explore new destinations with limited incentives besides fun and a higher position on their leaderboard. This made me think about the following: Imagine if we can come up with a "Pokemon Go for Water"! People would do something meaningful, as a team; have fun, receive social / financial incentives and use their own smartphone to collect data that is trustworthy, as its collected by their own community.

This made me wonder how can we fully leverage the potential of all these citizen?

I decided to signup for an interesting course about #CitizenEngagement, organised by the World Bank which is called 'Engaging Citizens, a game-changer for development' . This helped me to develop a model to measure water quality using smart-phones and engage citizens who live around water-sources. Two months later, I received my certificate for successfully submitting my 'Pokemon for Water' concept. I am convinced that the 4P model I proposed can work by combining existing products and services in a smart way (Combinatorial Innovation (AsiaP3Hub approach):

People (capacity building), Product (smartphones) and Portals (marketplaces) brings Progress.

Serendipity? The DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia published some weeks later an Asia-wide competition for social entrepreneurs to share their innovative ideas that have the potential to generate positive, scalable and sustainable social impact. They must be looking for us.... Game-Changers and Change-Makers! After submission of our idea 'On the Spot' we received the positive news that we had been shortlisted! The idea was part of the 32 innovative ideas, selected from 1082 entries submitted by 27 countries. Together we do it better!

A bottom up 'On-the-Spot’ Water-Quality Monitoring delivery service that empowers citizens to primarily monitor (and upload) their drinking water quality and secondly the water quality of their rivers and lakes.

I am very grateful for the 'On the Spot' team of friends who were willing to join me into this adventure to work on a compelling one-pager, slide deck and 2 minute video which all needed to be submitted. The energy and willingness of people (and partners) around me to contribute to this submission; their ideas, research, data and in-kind time to make this work was overwhelming. Before I will show you the video, I would like to present our Myanmar team (in action):

Naw Thike, Adventurer and travel blogger. She is a Citizen Engagement Ambassador. Theo, Biology and Water Quality Specialist, leads general operations, and execution of the project. Pann Ei, our main local partner facilitates communication with Myanmar youth. Michael, Data Management and Visualization Specialist, guides operations and data management and production of maps for community engagement. Sein, our creative producer. Wai Lynn, technical trainer on data collection, Phyo Nge Cinematographer and Tanya, as a water-expert and for moral support. My role in this team is leading the efforts and be the Partner Engagement liaison, connecting interested clients and educating communities on the use of water quality monitoring sensors. I would like to thanks my team once again and also Hans and Peter of Akvo.org - my true friends and very experienced guides - on how to scale water-quality data collection into decision making portals using smartphones, sensors and dashboards.

Together we do it better!

Although the On the Spot - water adventures with a purpose' idea was not selected for the final top 10 ideas of the DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia it received a lot of positive feedback from water experts and entrepreneurs around the world. So our journey will continue. Please contact us to join forces around Citizen Engagement, Water-Quality monitoring and delivery-marketplace (data) platforms!

We would like to thank the organization of the Social Venture Asia Challenge, DBS Bank, National University Singapore (NUS) for their support. Please check out the finalists of this wonderful game-changer competition, and make sure you vote!

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