Young Water Leader’s Experience – Natalija Milicevic

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Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) is a fantastic venue to exchange ideas with industry and thought leaders from across the world. The innovation extended beyond the senior water leaders with this year’s inaugural Young Water Leaders Summit (YWLS). As a first time visitor to Singapore, I had the opportunity to learn both within the formal structure of the YWLS but also experientially, by exploring Singapore, seeing the sustainability embodied by the Super Trees and learning from fellow participants.

The value of learning from fellow participants is not to be underestimated. PhD Students, and undergraduate students alike taught me so much about Singapore’s water policies, flood prevention, and water management in such an incredibly short time. Other participants provided perspectives which challenged the conversation in a way that helped us think deeply about the topics at hand. During the session on Water Stewardship, my breakout group discussed Stakeholder Engagement. We talked in terms of practical scenarios a business would encounter but one participant raised the issue of the term in the first place and what it would been for the quality of the engagement with affected water users. The disciplinary and geographic diversity of the youths at YWLS created a truly inter-disciplinary forum in which issues could be discussed from multiple perspectives and towards varying actions and outcomes.

The YWLS did highlight the success of Singapore’s model of technological innovation and thought leadership. In this way, I engaged with technical and financial tools for addressing water management challenges which were slightly outside my area of expertise i.e. working with governance and institutional tools.

At the Water Professionals Panel, some panelists implied that we as youth have little to offer, or that our current knowledge or understanding of the world is skewed. Such remarks contradicted the spirit of YWLS. However, youth did respond well to the mentor-ship that was provided in the form of succinct advice on actions that could be taken to build our career. This included things like determination, knowing how to generate buy-in, and focusing on peak performance.  A lesson from this is that youth water leaders are welcome to a partnership with senior water leaders. A partnership in which knowledge is imparted with the intention of empowering youth by providing them with the confidence and skills they need to be future water stewards.

To site it again, the session on Water Stewardship, Mr Zheng from Swire Water Stewardship Strategy provided very succinct insight and advice. His suggestions during the discussions were very practical and actionable.

Overall the experience was a valuable one. The individual discussions I had with other participants, learning about their perspectives and learning from their own experiences, was an aspect of YWLS I enjoyed during and outside of the sessions. Being present at the convention itself was valuable because we discovered new technologies first hand, learned from senior water practitioners with decades of experience, and witnessed or partook in meaningful dialogues shaping risk reduction strategies or leading to the development of future solutions. Youth presence at these dialogue processes was a key aspect to ensuring the transfer of inter-generational knowledge.

By Natalija Milicevic

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