You’re Hired! Apprentice star crowns Scottish Water’s team winners of real-world development challenge

Posted by
Lisa Martin
20 October 2017
Winning team. Stuart Gullan, Mark Wright, Donna Davidson, Rebecca Harding and Naomi Dixon from Scottish Water's Albagua team.

Apprentice champion, Mark Wright has named a team from Scottish Water as the Global Overall Winners in the Winnovators Programme 2017, for their imaginative hygiene education model, devised for WaterAid Nicaragua.

Over 40 teams from the UK, America, Japan and Australia took part in the challenge to generate water, sanitation and hygiene solutions for real-life projects in Nicaragua. The awards ceremony took place in London last night (19.10.17).

The overall global winners, Scottish Water’s ‘Albagua’ team, will visit Nicaragua early in 2018, and see for themselves how their creative ideas could help solve very real problems for millions of people living in Central America without clean water, sanitation, or hygiene.

The teams have spent the last eight months battling it out to devise solutions for their chosen field of WaterAid’s work. During the process, they presented a Dragons’ Den-style pitch to key experts at WaterAid, developed project management plans, and refined their team-working and business acumen skills too. The employee development programme is backed this year by Apprentice (Series 10) champion, Mark Wright, who presented the awards.

Speaking to the teams, Mark said:

“I am fully behind the whole concept of the Winnovators programme, the feeling of positivity around every aspect of it is infectious! Where else can individuals from the corporate world, play an active part in helping communities in the developing world – it’s a unique opportunity.

“The participating companies who had the vision to encourage their staff to take part should all be immensely proud of their teams. Not only have they stretched their imaginations whilst fine-tuning their business acumen, they have gained a deeper understanding of how to tackle complex, real-life scenarios. This will be an invaluable skill once they return to the work place.”

Undertaking the Hygiene Challenge, the overall winners, team Albagua from Scottish Water, devised a prototype mobile app, designed to motivate and enhance the skills of hygiene educators working in the field. The team also fundraised £14,000 for WaterAid projects world-wide.

Naomi Dixon from the Global Overall Winners, team Albagua, said:

“We’re absolutely over the moon! We have been mentally and emotionally committed to this project since March, and we were bowled over when Mark announced our team as the overall global winners.

“It’s amazing what you can achieve when you get your creative juices flowing for something that truly matters - we found the whole experience invigorating and inspiring. We wouldn’t hesitate to encourage other companies to sign up now for Winnovators 2018, especially as the focus country is India.”

Joshua Briemburg, Regional Representative for WaterAid in Latin America and the Caribbean, commented:

“Participating in the Water Innovators program has highlighted for me personally how multi-faceted the challenges are for us here in Nicaragua, and how much potential exists, globally, to seek solutions together.

“It’s great for two seemingly unrelated worlds - corporate and development - to come together. Collectively, the teams have worked on projects that have a social, technical and business element to them. The 2017 teams have raised over £200,000 for our work here and around the world, and contributed workable, imaginative solutions to extremely complex challenges. I’d like to personally thank them for all their hard work.

“This process has kept us on our toes and we’re looking forward to hosting the winning team! It will be an opportunity for them to witness how life can be changed here, for the better.”

In Nicaragua, 800,000 people lack access to clean water, while more than 2 million have nowhere safe to go to the toilet – a fatal combination which means that people are dying every day from preventable waterborne diseases. WaterAid’s work there is vital to support the Government to ensure universal access by 2030.

Any interested companies wishing to step forward for Winnovators 2018 can sign up now – the focus country will be India. Find out how to get involved at

or email [email protected].


CONTACT: Lisa Martin: [email protected] / 020 7793 4524 or WaterAid’s press office: [email protected] / 020 7793 4537.



Global overall winner of Europe & North America and Asia Pacific regions:

Scottish Water’s team, Albagua

This team developed a working prototype app for the Hygiene Challenge. Their project included a gaming element which engaged a variety of audiences, it raised over £14,000, and it took a solid approach, meaning its team members gained new skills. The essence of this project lies in the motivation and reward for the hard working-hygiene promotors visiting households and schools in the area.

Category Winners: Europe & North America region

Overall Winner

  • Scottish Water’s team, ‘Albagua’

Best Solve:


· Winner – AguaAECOM

· Runner up - Mott MacDonald ‘Thirst place’


· Winner - Mott MacDonald ‘Nica-agua’ from whole life costing to a growth based model

· Runner up - Southern Water ‘Vida Drops’


· Winner - NWG ‘Shiny Appy People’

· Runner up - AECOM ‘Celtic Connections’

Legal/Finance Winner - WFW 'WFWinnovators'

Best Fund

  • Winner - Thames Water ‘Quay Players’
  • Runner up - Thames Water ‘Making Waves’

Best Learn

  • Winner - Southern Water Fuente de Agua
  • Special commendation to the following teams - AguaAECOM, Southern Water Vida Drops, Thames Quay Players, Enviroforensics (USA) and EY.

Best Innovation

  • Winner - The Intern Group
  • Runner up - @One Alliance – La Vida con Agua

Best Community Approach:

  • Winner - AECOM Celtic Connections
  • Runner up - Anglian Water Vida Agua

Best Presentation

  • Winner - Severn Trent Water ‘Poo-wer Rangers’
  • Runner up - MWH

Category winners: Asia Pacific region

Overall winner

  • Seqwater

Best Solve – Hygiene

  • Winner – El Aqua Viva
  • Runner up – none

Best Solve – Sanitation

  • Winner – Mot Mot – Sydney Water
  • Runner up – Yarra Valley Water

Best Solve – Water

  • Winner - GHD
  • Runner up – Ovaflow

Best Fund

  • Winner – City West Water
  • Runner up – TRILITY

Best Learn

  • Winner – Yarra Valley Water
  • Runner up – City West Water

Best Innovation

  • Winner - Japan
  • Runner up - Coliban Water

Best Community Approach

  • Winner - QUU
  • Runner up – Unity Water

Best Presentation

  • Runner up – Unity Water
  • Winner – TRILITY

All 40+ submissions were reviewed by an expert team at WaterAid to outline a shortlist

All ‘solve’ challenges were reviewed by the WaterAid Nicaragua team and their local partners.

About WaterAid

WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. The international organisation works in 34 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25 million people with clean water and, since 2004, 24 million people with sanitation. For more information, visit, follow @WaterAidUK on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at

  • Some 289,000 children die each year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. That’s almost 800 children each day, or one child every two minutes.
  • An estimated 844 million people (around one in ten) are without clean water
  • Nearly 2.3 billion people (around one in three) live without a decent toilet
  • For every £1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of £4 is returned in increased productivity.
  • Just £15 can help provide one person with access to clean water.
  • For details on how individual countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, please see our online database,

Winnovators (previously known as Water Innovators) is an employee development programme where teams compete with each other, to solve a real problem from WaterAid’s work, undertake activities to raise funds, and learn new skills and leadership qualities. This exciting programme gives teams the opportunity to help WaterAid reach more people with safe water and toilets while getting a unique learning experience.

Companies can get involved by visiting

Mark Wright bio

Mark Wright is an influential entrepreneur and self-taught digital marketing specialist, renowned for his success in winning BBC’s The Apprentice. In securing the winners title, Mark went on to find and develop one of the UK’s fastest growing digital marketing agencies, Climb Online, in partnership with Lord Sugar.

As the most successful business to have been founded by an Apprentice winner to date, Climb Online boasts four UK office locations, a customer base of 400 plus and a second-year turnover in excess of £4 million as of January 2017. Boasting a sincere drive for success, Mark now plans to transform Climb Online into a global business – with Australia firmly in sight.

Nicaragua challenge information:

WaterAid Nicaragua submitted four real challenges relating to water, sanitation, hygiene, and legal finance. Teams chose one challenge, and worked together to find solutions:

Water - Technical infrastructure and hardware challenge:

In the Caribbean region of Nicaragua there is abundant surface water in low lying streams and rivers, but it is difficult to get the water to remote villages. Photovoltaic (solar electric) pumping is often a solution, but the ground is prone to erosion and the solar panels open to theft. The water flows are also highly variable between the rainy season (June – February) and the dry season (March – May), making a reliable supply more difficult. The Water Innovators water challenge: to first design and construct robust intakes to successfully divert water out of the stream bed in highly erosive soils. Following this, cost-effective security for solar panels in remote locations must be developed so that they are not stolen, causing the system to collapse.

Sanitation - Technical hardware and business solutions challenge:

On-site sanitation with small-volume septic tanks is quickly becoming a popular solution in both rural and urban areas of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. However, these require regular emptying over time. WaterAid Nicaragua has successfully developed a prototype solution, based on rope pumps, but a wider system of faecal sludge management and disposal needs to be devised around it – from technology to personnel to sustainability. The Water Innovators sanitation challenge: to come up with a business plan and pricing scheme for this service, to be sustainably managed and rolled out by micro-enterprise owners. The business plan must include the design of appropriate equipment to operate this service efficiently.

Hygiene - Technical software challenge:

Hygiene promotion is the most cost effective health intervention according to the World Bank, and one of the strategies WaterAid uses is to recruit and train hygiene promoters in communities. These volunteers conduct periodic household visits to check in on handwashing, use of toilets, household water treatment and solid waste, assessing whether hygienic behaviour is being maintained or needs improving. This approach can also be applied in school classrooms, and with a focus on maternal and child health. The Water Innovators hygiene challenge: to design a mobile app that allows each hygiene promoter to digitally register their visits, plan future visits, and other interactive features. This should provide an incentive to report visits and register trends within the community.

WASH SMART centre - Legal-finance challenge:

WaterAid has launched a WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) centre in coastal Nicaragua to strengthen the supply chain for Smart Market-based Affordable and Repairable Technologies (SMART), such as rope pumps, water filters, in-line chlorinators, on-site sanitation solutions and more. The centre aims to: demonstrate existing SMART solutions on-site; act as a hub to link clients and suppliers; incubate social entrepreneurs capable of developing the means to reach remotely located people; and provide technical support and micro-financing services. The Water Innovators legal-finance challenge: to create a legal framework and financing mechanism whereby WaterAid and other NGOs provide technical assistance and oversight, but where the centre is autonomous and has a business plan for self-sufficiency. This should be based primarily on sales commissions from private sector suppliers of SMART solutions and the incubation of social entrepreneurs.

The minimum amount each team needed to raise was 5,000 (GBP/USD/AUD/YEN and WaterAid provided £500 seed funding towards this.