[Series] Humans Behind AquaHacking: Waterlution

By Laurence Basso December 17, 2020

This time in our Humans Behind AquaHacking series, we’d like to present to you Olivia Allen (Project Lead for Youth Programs), Karen Kun (President and Founder), and Megan Cornall (Water Innovation Lab Coordinator) from Waterlution. Waterlution facilitates a cross-sector dialogue to inspire the development of creative and meaningful innovation in water evolution. They have been a program partner for the AquaHacking Challenge since 2017, providing leadership training to AquaHacking Finalist teams via the Expeditions.

Learn more about Olivia, Karen & Megan from Waterlution through these questions!

What do you like most about your job?

Olivia: At Waterlution, a lot of our work involves training and coaching young professionals to build their 21st-century skills to become innovative and inclusive leaders in the water sector. I love offering professional development trainings (like what we offer during the AquaHacking Expedition), it’s so rewarding to see young people build their confidence and leadership capacity.

Megan: I love the people! Everyone we collaborate with and all the young people we meet are working hard to make an impact in the water space. I enjoy learning about all the initiatives that are happening across the country and working with the people behind them.

Karen: So many things – it’s hard to narrow it down! I really enjoy seeing new creative ideas come to life, and this comes from teamwork, which is a very rewarding part of what I do. And over time, I love seeing the impact Waterlution has had on others. The network of globally connected water innovators and doers is incredible.

What is your favorite lake or river?

Olivia: My favorite lake is Cockscomb Lake in Nova Scotia. It gets its name because from a bird’s-eye view it looks like the comb on a roosters head. My family has a cottage here, and this is where my deep connection to water stems from. I have wonderful memories on this lake.

Megan: My favourite lake is Upper Arrow Lake in interior BC. I spent my teaching practicum there and would start each day with a walk by the lake. It is an incredibly peaceful place, with stunning mountains surrounding it.

Karen:  Very hard to pick just one, if forced it is Lake Ontario as it is my home and is the most important body of water for my life (yet, I love Georgian Bay a very close second, I have a great synergy with the Bow River, I adore the Pacific Ocean, The Nile River almost brings me to tears when I am near it, the Danube River is my happy place, where I congregate with my extended family.

Why do you think we should care about what AquaHacking does?

Karen: Unfortunately, there are a lot of water issues across the planet, and AquaHacking looks to solve them by enabling entrepreneurs to make their water solution a viable business, which plays a key role in solving these complex issues.

For you, what is a healthy lake or river?

Olivia: If you asked me this a few years ago, I would have said it has to be swimmable, but now after learning from many Indigenous people across Canada, I’ve redefined my definition of a healthy lake or river. Now, for me to consider a waterbody healthy it has to be clean enough to support the food chain within the lake, from macroinvertebrates to fish.

Karen: Healthy water = healthy community. One where community members, educators, local businesses, institutions, etc. feel connected to the waterbody(ies) that sustain their life and livelihoods and are regularly protecting it and celebrating it.

When you are not working, what do you like to do? What is your favorite hobby?

Olivia: I just love being outside! Hiking, exploring off the beaten path, and camping (near the water of course). I also love gardening veggies, foraging mushrooms, looking for agates and amethyst, and gold panning.

Megan: I love winter adventures after a fresh snowfall! Whether it is snowboarding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, or sitting in a cabin by a cozy fire, fresh snow always makes my day.

Karen: I love being outside with my son, going for long walks near water, kayaking, paddle boarding. Non-water related, I love playing tennis.

What is the best advice you have received?

Olivia: Things don’t always go as planned knowing how to read a room, knowing how to adapt, and pivot a project or situation.

Megan: A mentor in my undergrad once told me, “Follow the lights of the stars in the sky, not of the other ships passing you by”.

Karen: Make choices and decisions that guide you towards the best version of yourself you believe you can be. Don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen.

What are your pro-environmental gestures or efforts or resolutions?

Megan: I’ve been making an effort to buy my food from local farmers, and only buy what’s in season. It’s been quite fun as I’m learning more about different types of fruits and vegetables and am experimenting with cooking.

Karen: My son and I looked at our environmental footprint in 2019 and made a chart. Every week, we make small changes in an effort to always improve it, for example: eat less meat, less driving, as much as possible buy local products, choose to buy sustainable Canadian clothing when buying new. Two big topics he is asking about are investments and what our life looks like if we choose to travel way less (in a post-COVID-19 world, whenever that day comes).

What is your best memory of AquaHacking?

Olivia: We’ve really only been deeply involved in hosting the leadership training Expeditions. I loved when a few of the participants stepped up in the AquaHacking 2020 Atlantic Expedition and created an AquaHacking Atlantic Jingle to the tune of YMCA. It was awesome to see some musical talent among the water-tech entrepreneurs and it really brought a smile to every participant’s face! Aside from the Expeditions, I loved watching the pitches during the Semi-Final event. It’s always inspiring to hear about the innovative water-solutions the youth of today are coming up with!

Karen: It might be strange response, but I remember fondly the pre-work with the AquaHacking teams that goes into organizing the Expeditions and figuring out what will be developed, such as what the AquaHacking participants will see.  Also, I remember fondly sitting by Elbow Lake one evening during the 2019 AquaHacking Challenge weekend Expedition.