When a thousand ideas collide…

Today I am travelling to Denmark to join a group of the most inspiring people around. In Copenhagen I join a 1000 young people from all over the world to discuss, ideate and design solutions to the most pressing issues we are currently facing. Apart from beautiful memories, ideas, inspiring contacts, new friends and partnerships I hope to bring back home a firm belief in the ability of this generation to secure a healthy and safe environment for our own and future generations. Firstly, by ensuring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are met by 2030.

The ‘Unleash talents’ in Denmark are centred around seven themes: sustainable production & consumption, health, food, energy, education, urban sustainability, and water. In the next 9 days we will map the problem areas, ideate solutions, exchange ideas, develop prototypes, form partnerships, and learn a lot with each other. This first innovation lab is the start of a global community that works on accelerating progress towards the SDGs.

My main focus during Unleash is on SDG 6.1; achieving sustainable and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water. Globally, there are over 650 million people without access to safely managed drinking water services. Many national governments, local and international stakeholders are monitoring the state of water infrastructure to target resources and investments efficiently. Collecting data on the state of water infrastructure is good and it will help us to reach universal access, however we often see that the collection efforts are one-off or the data remain within a single organisation, limiting the potential the data provide. In my work I focus on how different audiences can best use the data to improve services. This includes advice on national monitoring systems, technical details on sharing water point data and bringing together stakeholders to discuss progress. This is the angle on water I’m taking with me to Denmark and I am interested in developing ideas along the advocacy of using water point data, products and (automating) services that help set up solid systems that help stakeholders to engage with water point data.

Proportion of population using at least basic water services in 2015 (retrieved from JMP 2017 - Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene)

This week provides the entrepreneurs, academics, engineers and other experts present to exchange ideas on all the different themes. Together with a colleague student at university I once developed an Agent-Based Model that we used to explore how the probability of ideas colliding within a population spurs specialisation and innovation. We explored how the collective skill level of communities that were suddenly isolated deteriorated as the number of exchanges with other people and other ideas went down. Consequently, we also saw a rise in specialisation and skills among communities that have an increasing amount of exchanges.

“By exchanging, human beings discovered ‘the division of labour’, the specialisation of efforts and talents for mutual gain.” — Matt Ridley

Every talent at Unleash brings own ideas, beliefs and perspectives, from own cultures and backgrounds. It is mighty interesting to see the ideas and perspectives of a 1000 bright, motivated and/or concerned people colliding and I’m both grateful and proud to be among them in Denmark.