Igniting the spark

IWA’s new Emerging Water Leaders Programme will help nurture talented young individuals in the sector. Erika Yarrow-Soden spoke to Glen and Patty Daigger, founding donors to the fund that will support the programme. 

One of the most exciting announcements made during IWA’s World Water Congress & Exhibition in Copenhagen last year was about plans to establish an endowment fund to support the development of young water professionals, with the fund to receive its initial financing thanks to the generosity of former IWA President Glen Daigger and his wife, Patty. 

Support for young professionals is a key component of IWA’s strategy for achieving its vision of creating ‘a network of water professionals striving for a world in which water is wisely, sustainably and equitably managed’. This is demonstrated by the association’s thriving network of Young Water Professionals (YWP), a global community on the shoulders of which present and future water challenges rest. By investing in young professionals, IWA seeks to empower them within the association and, in turn, in the water sector at large. 

With a long and committed relationship with IWA, Glen and Patty understand only too well how important it is for the success of the water sector for young talent to be nurtured. A renowned and highly respected member of the water profession, achieving international recognition for his expertise in wastewater treatment and water quality management for municipal and industrial systems, Glen has been a member of IWA for more than 50 years, and served as President for two terms from September 2010 to September 2014. 

Glen and Patty’s generous donation of $1 million to establish the endowment fund to support IWA’s new Emerging Water Leaders Programme is set to create a lasting legacy. The endowment will be invested, and the returns spent supporting a programme that will transform the careers of YWPs. 

“The thing about an endowment is that it is sustainable,” says Patty. “It is evergreen. It goes on forever.” 

Explaining why he and Patty wanted to find a way to support YWPs, Glen says: “The water profession has and continues to be very good to both of us in different ways. I continue to be a water professional and have been for many decades. It’s been a core source of my being, quite frankly. 

“Patty is not a water professional, but we have lived through this together and both of us understand what a rewarding profession it can be. We understand how essential water is for human life and to sustain the environment. We understand what life as a water professional can mean, both for the individual, but also for the contribution that one makes.” 

Patty adds: “We are hoping that by doing this we will encourage young water professionals from around the world to step up and to become the next generation of leaders in the field and to carry the sector forward.” 

Glen continues: “I joined one of the predecessors of IWA as a student in 1973. So, IWA has been part of my life throughout my entire professional career. I was senior Vice President for four years, President for four years and Immediate Past President for two years.  

“It was early in that timeframe that the YWP programme was established, and Patty and I were both fortunate to be engaged with the programme, interacting with YWPs, and attending YWP international conferences. We have seen how effective that programme has been in helping to grow the current cohort of leaders and emerging leaders in the Young Water Professionals confrere.” 

The Daiggers are keen to reinforce that they see their contribution as a starting point, an acorn from which great oaks will grow. Patty says: “This is the profession’s endowment. This is IWA’s endowment. We are the founding sponsors, but IWA is committing to continue to grow this endowment. From our perspective, our contribution is a start to grow something that contributes to the existing excellent YWP programme.” 

By supporting talented individuals, the endowment will benefit the water sector through the contributions of professionals with diverse experience and knowledge, a breadth that will be critical to delivering the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. 

Fostering a water revolution 

Collaboration, innovation and a thirst for knowledge will be critical to our water leaders of the future if we are to successfully negotiate the challenges of climate change and create a world where water and sanitation is accessible. With this in mind, IWA works hard to create an environment that nurtures talent, facilitates learning and provides opportunities for professional growth. The Emerging Water Leaders Programme will further this aim by supporting and mentoring high-achieving young water professionals, with the goal of providing the opportunity for a cohort of young water professionals to develop their leadership capabilities and build professional networks within the global water community. The programme will help YWPs realise their potential and make a fuller contribution on vital water issues. Participants will benefit from a solid grounding in leadership and management skills, which promises to help fast-track their professional development.  

By targeting emerging water leaders who have demonstrated ambition, energy and leadership skills as members of the IWA, the programme will empower beneficiaries to innovate and develop solutions to the water challenges they have experienced through the early part of their career. This will accelerate innovation and facilitate work in parts of the world where there are opportunities to use transformative technologies to the greatest impact. 

Patty says: “We would like to see a continuous flow of new leadership into the profession, so that the water profession continues to be vibrant and a great home for people contributing to human life and society, as it will need to into the future. This is not going to be the only thing that does that, but this is a contribution from us to that outcome.” 

A legacy with longevity 

The Emerging Water Leaders Endowment Fund is devised to ensure talented young professionals benefit from an environment established to enable them to flourish, be empowered to help shape the IWA of tomorrow, and become exemplars of the next generation of water leaders. This legacy will have the power to not only transform the careers of participants in the Emerging Water Leaders Programme, but, even more importantly, also revolutionise the water sector, enabling it to be more agile in its ability to respond to the global water crisis. 

Just the beginning 

While $1 million is an incredible gift, the Daiggers and IWA are conscious that, if the Emerging Water Leaders Programme is to achieve its full potential, the financial pool must be increased.  

Glen says: “The problem is that more resources are needed to help develop our emerging water leaders. What we have donated is not enough.” 

The aim, therefore, is to grow the fund and IWA will put in place structures to secure this growth, opening the way for further contributions. “We will be asking people to give what they can,” adds Glen. 

He continues: “There is a saying, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ This is an opportunity to make an investment in this sustaining, forever solution to ramp up the YWP programme in a significant way. 

“The one thing I know about water professionals is that, when called, they will answer.”