Young innovators demonstrate the importance of engagement

Photo of the winning team and judges.

At the start of October, four teams of young people, presented their ideas to a six-strong South Staffs Water panel on how to engage with younger customers in order to change the way they think about water usage. These innovative ideas will form part of the water company’s strategy going forward and all participants received £100, with the overall winning team also being presented with a trophy.

The presentations followed on from an initial briefing day earlier in the summer, when the 19 young innovators – aged between 16 and 18 – from 13 schools across the SSW region were invited into the water company’s headquarters.  During the day they were provided with key statistics about water management specific to the region and information on the challenges South Staffs Water faces in meeting future water demand.  They were also provided with guidance on how to approach the task, which was to think creatively about how to engage young people aged 12 -14, to make them feel responsible for how they use water.

The judging panel – which consisted of South Staff’s Group Chairman Sir James Perowne, Managing Director Phil Newland and Head of Retail Services, Rachael Merrell, along with two members of South Staff Water’s independent customer panel, Simon Sperryn and John Giles, as well as Elena Mexa, the company’s Communications, Marketing and CSR Manager – were very impressed with all four presentations and the innovative ideas that were shared.  These included greater use of social media channels such as YouTube, charity engagement and competitions.

Phil Newland, Managing Director at South Staffs Water, explained: 

“We were blown away by the calibre of all the presentations.  The presenters came across as intelligent and well prepared, and the level of engagement and ideas from each team was high. The winning team, Trident, went even further and as part of their research engaged with 880 pupils from two schools in the region - fantastic. Their research highlights a very important point, in that many people under 18 in our region are already thinking differently about plastics and recycling, compared to water. For example, 35% are choosing to not buy disposable plastics every day, compared to only 9% who are always looking to reduce their water usage. The ideas put forward by the young innovators will help us address this difference over time and help us protect the supply of our most precious resource in the future.”

This was the first time South Staffs Water has run the Young Innovators’ Panel and the company has found the process to be rewarding and insightful. It is looking forward to engaging with even more schools and young people when it invites participation from across the region again next year.

To find out more visit the Young Innovators' Panel webpage.