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YWPDK Interview Series – Trine Stausgaard Munk – YWPDK

YWPDK Interview Series – Trine Stausgaard Munk



The general assembly at the national YWPDK conference in March 2020 resulted in many new faces joining the leadership team of YWPDK. It was, however, also where very central people to the network stepped down from the leadership group. We will in this series of interviews put focus on these people who have been fundamental to where the network is today. And where else to start, but with the person who initiated the whole thing and was key in founding the network back in 2014, Trine Stausgaard Munk. Trine has been a key figure in the network acting as chair since the founding, and leading initiatives nationally, as well as internationally within the wider IWA. One of her key legacies is the Urban Lab, where she over the past three years has been able to bring international young talents to Copenhagen, Denmark, to work on some of the most pressing urban water-related issues;  a truly inspiring event showcasing the strength of inter-disciplinary work and YWPs.

Thank you, Trine for all your years of drive and leadership of the network.
On behalf of the network, all the best to you in your further endeavors.
Thor Danielsen

"I have learned and experienced true leadership and team spirit with water colleagues both within YWPDK and outside our network"

What motivated you to found YWP Denmark, and what was the process like?

I attended a conference organized by key actors in the water sector, my first as a graduate, and I felt out of place both in relation to age, gender, approach to water management, and area of interest. I did not see any peers in the room. I had studied with quite a few, so I knew they existed. I contacted DANVA to learn where young water professional would meet – they confirmed, that there was no natural meeting place or network, and suggested I start a Danish Young Water Professionals chapter under IWA. I reached out to my network to see if anyone would be interested in joining me in the process and was joined by several other young professionals who formed part of the first committee and jointly developed the first Articles of Association. DANVA and Ramboll shortly after committed to annual sponsorships to the network, which allowed us to get our practicalities in order (website, bank, etc.), in parallel with the new Country Chapter Steering Committee (board) of YWPDK developing their professional and graphic identity. 

"I enjoy this capacity building process of young professionals and would consider dedicating more of my time to similar initiatives"

Where do you see the role and the position of the YWPDK network in the Danish water sector and for the young water professionals in Denmark?

Many of the future challenges, globally and in Denmark, are directly or indirectly linked to water. Hence, we have to rethink how we plan, collaborate, and manage our water both within and beyond what we currently know as “the water sector”. I believe and hope that YWPs will continue to drive and push for sustainable and innovative water management today and in the future, as it relates to all aspects of the water cycle.  

How do you envision the future activities and the progression of the role of YWPDK nationally and internationally?

I think that YWPDK could play a key role nationally in building the workforce of tomorrow, and attracting the right talent to educate and work within water through innovative partnerships and a focus on early education. Internationally YWPDK can act as a link and accessible portal to the international water sector for our members, allowing them to make connections to international peers, mentors, organizations and universities. As we all know, water knows no boundaries, and neither should YWPDK

What did you gain personally from YWPDK, IWA, and by leading the network through your time as chair?

First and foremost, it is obviously a very steep learning curve to build a network from scratch, so the list is long. But more importantly I would say, that I have learned and experienced true leadership and team spirit with water colleagues both within YWPDK and outside our network in the process. A network is only as good as its members and people, and I think YWPDK truly gathers a remarkable group of professionals, and without comparison I have learned more from them, than the process of building the network itself. Thank you!  

"There is much freedom and much opportunity to contribute and much knowledge, lasting relations, and inspirational value to reap. What are you waiting for?"

What would be your advice to anyone contemplating on increasing his or her activity in the network or even just joining? 

The network is open to everyone who meets the member definition and who would like to contribute to the work of the organization. We all have good intentions, but sometimes they are not enough –half-hearted commitments can actually challenge the leadership of the network. It can be difficult to describe “what is in it for you”, because each of us focus and balance our engagement differently and take home different value from our contributions. However, I would claim, that there is a direct link between the level of contribution and the personally leveraged outcomes. I would recommend planning your network engagement well, both in relation to your personal life as well as in close dialogue with key stakeholders in the network. This helps ensure that your contribution makes the most value. And there is much freedom and much opportunity to contribute and much knowledge, lasting relations, and inspirational value to reap. What are you waiting for?  

Can you shed some light on what you are going to be involved in now that you are no longer in the network, and how do you see the role of past YWPDK members in relation to the network?

That is a really good question. The last couple of years I focused much of my time to planning and hosting “Copenhagen Urban Labs” for young professionals from around the world to work together in a socially intense setting, while addressing some of the most pressing challenges as it relates to urban planning and resilience, with a particular focus on water. I enjoy this capacity building process of young professionals and would consider dedicating more of my time to similar initiatives. I have also been asked to advocate for women in water and resilience, which is another interesting topic and my daughter has asked me to start a network for kids who would like to build a more sustainable world with their friends, starting locally. I believe the tricky aspect will be to prioritize between all the great opportunities to make a difference out there 😊  

In relation to keeping “retired” YWPDK members (YWPDK Alumni?) engaged, I suggest we use them as “senior experts” in events, as an effective link to the next generation of talent and sponsors, and also consider them as a key ingredient in a mentorship program or in bridging the generation gaps. Keeping YWPDK Alumni connected meaningfully to the network seems to present great potential and would also extend the YWPDK footprint into additional generations. Building a more sustainable and integrated capacity to manage water in the future could also very well include mid-career YWPDK Alumni in some capacity or other. I will be happy to support all the crazy ideas coming from YWPDK in whichever capacity possible, also in the future!