Transformative Futures for Water Security initiative 

Water security is key to our collective future, yet many places in the world experience severe water insecurity. We have to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (SDG 6). Perspectivity facilitated this initiative for the Global South on the future of water security in the lead-up to the UN 2023 Water Conference.
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Dec 18, 2023


International Water Management Institute (IWMI)


For the Transformative Futures for Water Security initiative: the process design and facilitation support to convene a series of multi-stakeholder dialogues among the science, policy, business and development communities to create mission-driven alliances to catalyze and deliver high-ambition, future-ready innovation and inclusive science-based action for water security.


  1. 4 Co-creation sessions to develop shared design principles, the central question and shared intentions.
  2. Design, facilitation and harvest of 8 online Regional Dialogues in 5 languages.
  3. Design, facilitation and harvest of 1 Global South Conference with 120 participants, and a parallel event in Southeast Asia. 
  4. Harvest for UN 2023 Water Conference.


  • High-Ambition Mission Statements brought into the New York UN 2023 Water Conference. 
  • The ‘unheard voices’ of the Global South were brought together. 
  • Youth had a global stage.
  • A completely new network was created.
  • Momentum was created for more action.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6

Many places in the world experience severe water insecurity. This is reflected in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. But more and collective efforts are needed to achieve this goal. Communities all over the world are in dire need of better access to water and sanitation.

Regional Dialogues and Global Conference

Therefore the Transformative Futures for Water Security (TFWS) initiative was created. This is a participatory, multi-stakeholder, intergenerational dialogue hosted and organized by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and designed and facilitated by Perspectivity.

During a process of about a year, online Regional Dialogues were held with participants from South Africa, West and Central Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa and Latin America. The participants were scouted and selected by the local IWMI directors or installed committees, to make sure they represented key stakeholder groups in the water sector. They brought high level expertise from government, academia, civil society, policy makers, funders and investors, private sector, users groups, and youth. Through these Regional Dialogues, 10 water themes were formulated, as well as 13 key drivers for transformative change. 

The results were the starting point for the Global Conference, hosted by IWMI in Cape Town in February 2023. Here, 120 participants from the seven regions of the Global South convened for three days. Together, they went through an interactive and dynamic process inspired by the Future Search methodology and Deep Democracy. Participants from the eighth region, Southeast Asia, gathered in Laos and had a parallel event, following the same agenda. Their findings were added to the Global Conference. Vice versa they reflected on the outcomes of the Global Conference at their parallel event.

Collectively, all the participants explored the central question of the initiative: 

What are high-ambition, collective actions that will create strong alignment of knowledge and research, policy, business and on-the-ground implementation to deliver future water?

Future Search and Deep Democracy Principles

The Global Conference process enabled diverse and intergenerational stakeholders to explore the central question, by working collectively on progressive and self-managed tasks. The conference was carefully designed to contribute to ownership over the results, thinking outside the box and experiencing and breaking through the old narrative. It was necessary to strike a balance: ensuring that the people not having participated in a regional dialogue were given the space to catch up and share their views, and at the same time to keep moving forward towards the end-result of high ambition statements.

During the co-creation sessions and the regional dialogues, it became clear that these types of cross-sectorial conferences are not the norm in this working context. Most conferences are designed around panel discussions and Q&A sessions. To accommodate the novelty and to avoid falling back into the old habit of putting a panel’s opinion central with participants only asking questions, we have reiterated the following actions and values during the whole process:

    1. Confusion and uncertainty are part of the process and it is safe to express those feelings.
    2. Focusing on remaining active (self-management roles, reporting back, room layout changes).
    3. Invite participants to challenge oneself to move beyond one’s own perspective.

8 High-Ambition Statements

The final results of the Global Conference, bringing together and representing the ‘unheard voices’ of the Global South, were combined into ‘High-Ambition Statements’. This took some hard work from the leading team of IWMI, but the results were then brought into the United Nations 2023 Water Conference in New York. We are proud to have facilitated a spotlight and a stage for youth to join the water security conversation and expand their networks. We are also happy to see they have used this momentum to continue with their own initiatives, joining and setting up side events. The follow up actions by IWMI and their country offices are good signs that the urgency has been felt and bold actions are being taken.

Special thanks to

We would have never been able to do this work without the commitment of some individuals. With the risk of missing somebody we would like to honour:


  • Mark Smith: it take courage to really try something out of the ordinary
  • Chiara Colombo: your dedication to this process was from a different order. 
  • Josh Newton: your connection with the youth brought the youth hosts to a whole new standard.