With a nod to 30 years since privatisation and focusing on a new shared vision for the sector looking at least 30 years into the future, we held our Future30 conference on 3 July 2019.
A conference with a difference
80 delegates from across the water sector descended to London, many unsure of what lay in store. There wasn’t a traditional agenda setting out the day’s seminars; instead delegates were asked to visit 'Future30 online', where they could engage with the conference and build their own agenda. It was clear there was some uncertainty and discomfort about what lay ahead... and this is exactly what we'd hoped for!
Alongside senior leaders from the sector, organisations were invited to bring a rising star who has the potential to lead in the future.
The conference opened when we switched the lights off in the main room and we played our intro video. Then Ofwat's Roshni Natali took to the stage to welcome delegates, set the scene, set the tone and most important of all, to help the delegates get to grips with Future30 online via their smartphones.
We had three fantastic seminars lined up for the morning session – delegates had the chance to attend two.
How drinking beer could help a little to save water
Will, Nick and Michaela from Ignition Brewery introduced their model of social value and challenged companies to consider how they can employ more people with learning or other disabilities.
Ignition Brewery is a South London brewery which employs and trains people with learning disabilities to brew and serve great beer.
In this seminar, delegates were encouraged to think about roles in their business which could be adapted to suit employees with disabilities, and then pitch these to the group.
We're all irrational really
Ella from Claremont Communications challenged delegates to consider that human behaviour is often not rational and how behavioural science can help nudge behaviour to effect change for the better.
Ella's seminar got everyone thinking and talking about behaviour change. After talking through some behavioural science models delegates started applying them to the water sector.
To protect the future of water, what changes do we need to drive in the sector?
The rise of the influencers
Stephanie Hurry from Waterwise focused delegates on the water usage impact of fast fashion and other fashionable behaviours driven by social media influencers.
After some insightful discussions on how fast fashion can have a global impact on water resources and the environment, the conversation moved on to delegates sharing their 'water confessions'.
Delegates confessed to having shower-hogging teenagers, washing their bedsheets every week and wearing clothing items just once before washing them.
A spot of beer tasting
Our speakers Ignition Brewery held a beer tasting session over lunchtime, giving delegates the chance to taste the products made by their employees.
After lunch, in her first ever public speaking engagement, Ofwat's Rosanna Pellarin reflected on the morning and re-energised the group.
She invited three rising stars who attended to the morning seminars to give their summaries. Raring to go, delegates set off for the afternoon seminars.
Roots on the ground
Katrina Kilkenny from WaterAid engaged people with case studies from their work with communities in Africa and encouraged delegates to recognise how to better work with their own communities.
What can water companies learn from work in developing countries? Delegates had really insightful conversations about how they could further engage those living in the communities they serve.
Nature first - imagining a natural infrastructure
Dr Jonathan Ritson from Green Alliance shared his vision for a nature-based approach to water, to take over from defaulting to hard infrastructure solutions.
He challenged the group to think about what hard infrastructure could be avoided or replaced in future, balanced with what might still be essential. Delegates commented that it highlighted the need to think proactively on new models ASAP.
In this seminar, delegates were asked to imagine what future water infrastructure might look like in 30 years' times if using nature-based solutions was the default assumption over hard engineering approaches.
Delegates commented that it highlighted the need to think proactively on new models ASAP.
Generation Z - the fluid generation
Andre Bogues from FleishmanHillard Fishburn wowed us with his seminar about Generation Z.
This seminar gave delegates an insight into Generation Z - future customers of the sector. Understanding the digital generation with unlimited information at their fingertips, who fear a future restricted by the actions of generations past.
Busting some myths and debunking some stereotypes, Andre helped delegates to understand what makes Gen Z tick. They don't want merely promises of action; they want to see it actually happen and will be vocal if it's not right.
Finally Ofwat Chief Executive Rachel Fletcher took to the stage with her closing address, drawing everything together, reflecting on key messages and sending attendees away with a hard-hitting call to action.
"Go back and share this learning. Current leaders and the rising stars who have attended with them, to go back and work together to make real change. And those potential future leaders to hold their CEOs to account if they continue to witness business as usual."
In summary Rachel told delegates that there is no formal regulatory requirement; instead she suggested that the conference as a whole was an example of how Ofwat is using its softer powers to influence, nudge and inspire the sector to build a better world.
The last thing delegates were asked to do was to make a pledge... write it on a Future30 postcard and post it into the Future30 postbox.
All in all, a fantastic event which generated lots of buzz, enthusiastic contribution and much great feedback on the day.
To everyone who attended the conference - we had some fantastic discussions to feed into Ofwat's strategy and the vision for the water sector.
To all of of our speakers, who ran truly insightful seminars:
Roshni Natali, Ofwat
Will Evans, Nick O'Shea and Michaela Overton, Ignition Brewery
Ella Jenkins, Claremont Comms
Stephanie Hurry, Waterwise
Rosanna Pellarin, Ofwat
Katrina Kilkenny, WaterAid
Dr Jonathan Ritson, Green Alliance
Andre Bogues, FleishmanHillard Fishburn