Q&A Dr Faith Lawrence

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There is a wealth of experience in policy engagement and the adoption of water stewardship and the AWS Standard, from which we can all learn.

Q&A with Dr Faith Lawrence

15 May 2024

AWS welcomed Dr Faith Lawrence as the new Head of Policy Engagement in April 2024. Faith is based in Cape Town, South Africa and has spent most of her career working in development cooperation, with a focus on governance, multi-stakeholder partnerships and water stewardship. Prior to joining AWS full-time, she was a member of the AWS Technical Committee from January 2020 to March 2024. We caught up with Faith to learn more about her goals in her new position and her priorities for this year. 

Can you share with us a bit about your background and what brought you to this new role at AWS? 

I am thrilled to join an organisation leading the way in water collaboration. My background includes extensive work in governance, planning support systems, local economic development and water stewardship. I have implemented, advised and led teams working with various levels of government on institutional strengthening, policy advisory processes and public-private collaboration initiatives. Over the past eight years, I have applied this experience to the water sector, specifically focusing on water stewardship partnerships.  

I led the work of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit’s (GIZ) International Water Stewardship Programme and its successor, the Natural Resources Stewardship Programme, in South Africa. This work allowed me to engage in innovative, multi-stakeholder water and natural resources stewardship partnerships, covering topics such as water security, non-revenue water, catchment-based partnerships, water resilience in industrial parks and the integration of water stewardship into national planning and framework processes, among others. This experience has given me a deep understanding of the operational context of water stewardship action and the institutional mechanisms that either facilitate or hinder it. I hold the AWS Standard in high regard for the credibility it lends to discussions and actions towards the sustainable use of water.  

This role presents an exciting opportunity to support the extensive work already in progress to enhance the impact of the AWS System. I also aim to underscore the practical value of credible water stewardship in strategic public sector engagements, as well as in global water policy and climate resilience discussions. 

What does policy engagement entail and why is it crucial work for AWS?

Policy engagement has been a continuous process within AWS – occurring at various levels through the extensive work of our members in the sites and catchments where water stewardship partnerships are established. As a water stewardship community, we have also participated in numerous global platforms on topics such as water, climate, resilience and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One area that needs further exploration is how to leverage the energy, experience and influence of credible water stewardship action in the sites and catchments where our members operate to apply these key insights in strategic public sector and water governance engagements.  

This occurs at various levels and always requires contextual consideration. As AWS, we aim to deepen our contributions to these discussions and further draw on the critical lessons and experiences of our water stewardship members who lead sustainable water use and support the adoption of the AWS Standard. Policy engagement in this context will have three dimensions:  

  • We will explore innovative ways to share knowledge and experience on improved policy engagement at the site and catchment level. 
  • We will investigate the alignment between the AWS Standard and policy compliance and disclosure processes that may govern the work of our corporate members and their value chains.  
  • Globally, we plan to continue our support of the global water community’s efforts on elevating the role of water stewardship in various topics including water, climate, resilience, collective action and adaptation. 

Which forums and initiatives are you looking forward to engaging with?

Several forums could be of interest, but I am particularly keen on reconnecting with our AWS Members who are currently engaged in water stewardship policy agendas. There is a wealth of experience in policy engagement and the adoption of water stewardship and the AWS Standard, from which we can all learn. This will also provide significant insights into how we communicate and inform our water governance and policy processes and explore how to embed a credible water stewardship standard in various contexts. Globally, I am particularly interested in the outcomes of the Water Action Agenda, World Water Forum and Conference of Parties (COP), and how water stewardship is positioned in these engagements. We, as a water stewardship community, have a rich contribution to make to these platforms, and we need to ensure this is based on solid evidence and credible action. 

How can policy and partnerships scale water stewardship and the uptake of the AWS Standard?

We can support the scale-up of the AWS Standard by deepening our understanding of the key challenges faced by water stewardship stakeholders, who understand the value of the Standard, but who are not necessarily fully embracing its adoption. We need to find practical ways to support the uptake of the AWS Standard by ensuring that there is a deeper recognition of its value in public engagement processes. There is a strong message from partners who can credibly disclose water usage achieved through certified sites. Imagine policymakers globally who recognise this with confidence through their planning, budgetary and resource allocation processes! 

Aside from your work at AWS, what do you most enjoy doing in your free time?

One of my current highlights is my Album Club where we review different jazz albums and learn about musicians, their influences and the historical context of the respective albums. I also enjoy walking and am working towards a trekking adventure in Patagonia to see the glaciers. Besides this, I love a good book and thoroughly enjoy catching up with family and friends!