Sydney Water team India bound after winning global Winnovators corporate challenge

10 min read
Sydney Water Team Praan with their award
Image: Sydney Water

Sydney Water’s ‘Team Praan’ was this morning named WaterAid’s global Winnovators champion for 2018, beating a field of 30 corporate teams from across the world to claim the coveted top prize.

The announcement comes a day after the team cleaned up at the Winnovators Asia-Pacific presentation ceremony in Melbourne yesterday afternoon, where it won four awards including the prize for the best Asia-Pacific team.

‘Team Praan’ were one of 13 Australian corporate teams to have spent the past eight months participating in Winnovators, an employee development program run by international not-for-profit WaterAid.

As part of the program, competing teams were invited to solve real-world water, sanitation and hygiene challenges from India while learning new skills, thinking outside the box and raising funds for WaterAid, an organisation that aims to transform the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people by improving access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.

“I’m so proud of the incredible contributions from all 15 Australian Winnovators teams,” WaterAid Australia Chief Executive Rosie Wheen said. “It’s so encouraging to see the hard work these teams have put into supporting WaterAid and collaborating towards new and innovative water, sanitation and hygiene solutions for our partners in India.”

It was the second time in three years that Sydney Water have claimed the global prize after ‘Team Labobo’ shared the prize with UK-based Anglian Water in the competition’s inaugural year in 2016. Scottish Water and Fujistu won the competition in 2017 and were awarded for their efforts with a trip to Nicaragua, where they had the chance to test out their solution with locals.

‘Team Praan’, whose name translates to ‘vitality’ in Hindi, will have a similar opportunity next year, having won the opportunity to visit India to present their sanitation solution to the WaterAid country program team based there.

The team designed a prototype ‘Poo Switcheroo’ to help reduce the exposure of Indian people to harmful human waste when switching between two pits of a twin pit latrine. Their solution also involved a community engagement program that proposed creating a new local market for biosolids.

Their creative approach was commended by the judges, who also judged ‘Team Praan’ as having the Best Presentation and Best Social Media of all Asia-Pacific teams, as well as being the most outstanding team for showing evidence of learning throughout the 8-month challenge.

‘Team Praan’ narrowly defeated Yarra Valley Water’s “Yarra Valley Paanee” team, which won three awards. Sydney Water’s other two teams also performed strongly, with ‘#LiveDifferently’ claiming two awards and ‘Avasar’ receiving a Highly Commended award.

Also flying the flag for Australia in this year’s Winnovators event were teams from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Arup, GHD, North East Water, Queensland Urban Utilities, Seqwater and Steel Mains.


Below is the full list of the Winnovators winners for the Asia-Pacific region, with italicised comments from Rosie Wheen, Chief Executive of WaterAid Australia:

Global Winnovators Champion
Sydney Water, Team Praan

Overall Asia Pacific Winner
Sydney Water, Team Praan

Judges considered how the team responded to the challenge brief, showed quality and thoroughness of the final submission in line with the brief, delivered their final presentation, and fulfilled the three core areas of solve, fund and learn to an excellent level overall.

There were two teams neck and neck in the scoring department and it came down to the wire. Team Praan provided a strong submission with consistently presented, well-documented evidence across all three aspects of the challenge.

Best Solve – Hygiene
SeqWater, UNEQwater
Sydney Water, #LiveDifferently

Judges considered how the team considered the local context of India, feasibility of their solution and alignment to the solve challenge brief to develop the best solution to the hygiene problem.

There were two teams we could not split in this category. They both used a mix of design, marketing and communications skills to devise a multimedia hygiene toolkit, an implementation plan and a method to monitor the toolkit’s impact.

Using the plan-do-check-act model, UNEQWater’s solution involved the characters Chetna and her brother Chetan, weaved through a 10-11 week education syllabus. The hygiene program presented by UNEQWater included a framework, implementation and monitoring plans, 10-week school syllabus for children aged 6-9 and 10-14 respectively, as well as conceptual designs for a story book and website along with a hygiene song. Their collaboration with Shalom House, an NGO currently working with schools in India to improve school quality and attendance rates provided valuable insights.

Sydney Water’s #LiveDifferently team created well-researched superheroes Purity and Antibact and developed a hygiene platform that carried active story books, a board game for boys and girls about menstrual hygiene, an online game, a scientific toolkit game and a “Wash your Hands” song. We were impressed with how the team presented a wide array of fun activities to educate children in India about the importance of hygiene.

Best Solve – Sanitation
GHD, Groundbreaking Hygiene Developers

Judges considered how the team considered local context, feasibility and alignment to the solve challenge brief to develop the best solution to the Sanitation challenge.

GHD’s Groundbreaking Hygiene Developers produced a video and poster explaining their solution. Their model/explanation of their slide gate mechanism using common material such as rubber tyres, plastic bottles and plywood to fit new and existing latrines was delivered around a well thought out education and implementation campaign entitled ‘Put a lid on open defecation’. The Groundbreaking Hygiene Developers produced a simple and effective solution to the sanitation challenge.

Best Solve – Water
Yarra Valley Water, Yarra Valley Paanee

Judges considered how the team considered local context, feasibility and alignment to the solve challenge brief to develop the best solution to the Water challenge.

Yarra Valley Paanee created a smart phone app and online platform system as an effective way of increasing awareness about water quality while empowering the community with information about their local water sources. The women’s group will input the data into the app which will be available for all users to see. It will act as a record-keeping tool to track water quality over time and inform lobbying efforts demanding for improved water services from the local provider. It can generate income through partnerships with some of India’s best loved brands like Maggi and Airtel.

Best Fund
Yarra Valley Water, Yarra Valley Paanee

Judges considered how the team delivered the events, how plans and approaches were adapted where necessary, and how the wider community was engaged. Total profit raised and return on investment was also considered.

Yarra Valley Paanee set a target and, in their words, ‘smashed it’. What impressed us was not only the $24,372 they raised but how they did it. Fruit sales, online auctions, ‘Dare for a Dollar’, entertainment books, a trivia night, a Bollywood evening and tapping into their networks to make it all come off with minimal expenditure. Awareness across many different target audiences was also a part of their plan. They attribute their success and final figure to three things: having a plan but being adaptable; getting support from the executive team; and getting help from a diverse group of people outside their company.

Best Learn
Sydney Water, Team Praan

Judges considered how the team demonstrated a focus on learning and development throughout all outlined deliverables and presentations alongside the pre and post program surveys.

Team Praan clearly showed how they linked their skill development, their activities and aligned them to the company goals and staff values. They had learn buddies, surveys and journals capturing their team and individual journeys.  This was neatly presented in a video and well documented report.

Best Presentation
Sydney Water, Team Praan

Judges considered how the team delivered a well thought out and engaging business pitch, plus final deliverables for all three area of Solve, Learn and Fund. 

Team Praan took us on their journey in the Solve, Learn, and Fund with clearly articulated and consistently branded visually documents, a well-referenced and detailed report, and videos to accompany each of the three components. Their Gogglebox ‘Solve’ video and cooking show ‘Fund’ videos were highly creative. They also provided a 3D animation of their solve solution.

Best Community Approach
Yarra Valley Water, Yarra Valley Paanee

Judges considered how the team considered the community needs and context in Solve solutions and engaged the wider community for impact in the Fund and/or Learn.

Yarra Valley Paanee used the human-centred double-diamond design approach to investigate, ideate and develop a solution for their Solve challenge. This included extensive research on the community in Delhi and the use of a business model canvas to develop their value proposition. They discovered, defined, developed and delivered an affordable solution for water testing. They promoted awareness and engaged wider audiences through their unique fundraising events and social media activity, which extended across their supplier/contractor relationships, family, friends and professional networks.

Best Innovation
Sydney Water, #LiveDifferently

Judges considered how the team showed innovation within the approach to Solve, Fund and/or Learn.  Winnovators defines innovation as “a creative approach that drives change, and is a new and successful way of approaching on or more of the core areas of Solve, Fund and Learn. 

#LiveDifferently created an amazing array of hygiene tools. Their research and innovation led to the creation of two Hygiene Heroes – Purity and Antibact. The team provide a wide range of innovative multimedia solutions with strong Indian context, tested in a primary public school in Rajasthan and accompanied by an implementation plan. This was all centred around creating a movement, a groundswell, for people to live through movement and challenging people to live differently.           

Best Social Media
Sydney Water, Team Praan

Judges considered how the team used social media in all three areas of solve, fund and learn to create awareness about their work and engage the public.

Team Praan demonstrated a strong use of social media throughout the Winnovators challenge, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Their Twitter posts reached over 68,000 people, their Instagram posts were liked almost 2500 times and their LinkedIn posts achieved over 5,000 views.

Highly Commended
Australian Bureau of Meteorology, WaterBOM

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology were a first-time Winnovators participant, additionally challenged as a large national government organisation. We want to acknowledge WaterBOM for their creativity, their research and their work in the hygiene solve area. I would encourage teams to check out their Solve submission, which is centred on the “Wait Wash Whoosh” messaging and includes a story book, banner een with English and Hindi, a poster with children messages, a card game, a Hy-genie and a cartoon with a catchy soundtrack. WaterBOM also auctioned online two Bureau archived images centred on the weather and climate recordings.

Highly Commended
North East Water, NEWInnovators

North East Water were also first timers in Winnovators. This team produced a clever MyPit phone app, technical drawings of their solution, a twin pit latrine model, and a twin pit latrine chocolate cake. They also produced a fun-filled NEWS bulletin about their Learn journey. The movie titles they submitted centred on their campaign slogan “The future depends on where you poo today”. They held a successful Bollywood night and raised in excess of $10,000, while raising awareness for WaterAid.

Highly Commended
Steel Mains, Steel Mains

Steel Mains were another first time Winnovators participant, additionally challenged by having members spread across Australia. The team was small in numbers, but six amazing individuals tackled the tyranny of distance, listened to our initial feedback and presented an entertaining video for their final journey submission in the form of a news bulletin cleverly capturing the uniqueness of their team and  their learn journey. Of particular note was the final news segment with CEO Dean Connell talking about the value of Winnovators for Steel Mains. Steel Mains also exceeded their fund target of $5,000 – reaching in excess of $11,000.

Highly Commended
Sydney Water, Team Avasar

Sydney Water has had teams competing in Winnovators since its inception. Each year, their new teams are upping the ante and this year all three of thier teams put in strong submissions. We’d like to acknowledge Team Avasar for their strong and diverse fundraising activities and for raising in excess of $15,000 for WaterAid.  Their video submission for the Solve component was developed as a training video, demonstrating how they would implement their “Water Devas of Delhi” program. This was supported by a detailed business implementation report.