An Interview with Caroline Duncan
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A close conversation with our Canada Director Caroline Duncan. A look into her past, her work and what changes she wants to make in the world.
What are the water health missions that drive you?
No person or creature should be subjected to drinking polluted water. It is as simple as that. For example, I recently visited a community suffering from high levels of arsenic, uranium and aluminium in their local water. The resulting news of deformed kittens and dogs with bulging cancer lumps, should not be accepted and allowed to continue. This kind of situation is all too common, however.
“No person or creature should be subjected to drinking polluted water. It is as simple as that.”
What is your professional background?
During my adolescence my curiosity was growing towards the mystery of what was in the ocean. I found the idea that there was a whole eco-system living out of sight so interesting, and beautiful. I craved being surrounded by that amazement every day and aspired to study this hidden world.
I initially wanted to study oceanography (I still do), but I opted for the more generalist option of marine biology. However, my passion for extra-curricular over studying made sure that I was not going to University out of school. So, with some poor grades, I started to pursue more practical ways of following my ocean exploration dreams (sailing, diving and volunteering for Marine Conservation Society), whilst enrolling in College for an HNC in Applied Science. On completion, studying the oceans at University became an option for me, and I went straight into second year at Aberdeen University, studying Marine Biology. From there I continued my path of ocean academia with an MSc in Climate Change: Managing the Marine Environment, at Heriot-Watt University, in which my thesis project focused on primary chemicals impact on primary productivity, as a mechanism for climate change.
Following University, I applied my studies doing animal husbandry, at the National Aquarium in Plymouth. After a while, I decided that going into environmental consultancy would be my next career move. However, I wanted to travel so I moved to New Zealand first and spent several months of living out of a van.
After deciding to stay in New Zealand, I managed to get a job with Jacobs Engineering, as a Graduate Environmental Scientist. There I learned about the skills needed for management consultancy, how to manage stakeholders and the politics around capital projects (I also found out that I could have gone into construction – as I did enjoy being out on site and around HUGE machinery). From here I moved to Wellington for a new challenge, working for the Environmental Social Impact Assessment team. After a great life experience and a great career start, I made the hard decision to move back to the UK, which led to the great opportunity of getting involved with Clean Water Wave.
“I went straight into second year at Aberdeen University, studying Marine Biology. From there I continued my path of ocean academia with an MSc in Climate Change: Managing the Marine Environment.”
How did you get involved with CWW?
Through excessive charm and my connections. One of the Directors I have known since birth (Diane), another I have known since my MSc (Howard), so I only had to convince Stephanie that I was worth the employment (which I have no doubt my womaniser of a dog helped with). I had moved back from New Zealand and there was an opportunity to work at Clean Water Wave doing communications and research. I felt connected with what the company stood for and I thought, I can help them achieve that – so I went for it.
What is your role at CWW?
I am the goofball in the team. It is my job to overshare embarrassing stories to keep the mood light, as positivity leads to innovative thinking. I have also progressed since joining and have now taken on the role of Program Director for Canada. My job is to establish links with communities and corporates in need of effective and efficient ways of cleaning water, for drinking or process purposes. For example, First Nation communities or businesses in the waste water sector, to name a couple of targets. For them our CAFE filtration system can be a real game changer, and my job is to show them how.
“My job is to establish links with communities and corporates in need of effective and efficient ways of cleaning water, for drinking or process purposes.”
What impact can CWW have on the world?
Clean Water Wave isn’t just about providing a technology that cleans water. Its impact is way more than just another system on the market, as our social enterprise model lifts up communities who can’t lift themselves. Everything we do is directly linked to delivering sustainable development targets in communities where they are missing, we’re all in this to empower, cheer on and help people thrive. I hope we are able to have that impact across the globe.
Over the next 5 years, I want to partner with like-minded organisations in Canada (or North America as a whole) to scale up and help First Nation and rural communities receive clean safe water at an affordable price but also make a start to bring the technology and social impact to Central and South America (might as well satisfy that travel itch while I’m at it).
“Its impact is way more than just another system on the market, as our social enterprise model lifts up communities who can’t lift themselves.”
What has been your proudest moment?
Deciding I was boss enough to bring Clean Water Wave to Canada to make an impact.
What has been the most surprising or shocking thing that you have learned so far in the water sector?
The length of time it takes to get people a simple and fundamental human right. The fact that we have to fight to get access to clean water and that isn’t just in low-income countries.
The amount of communities that either are unaware, unable to do anything about it or when they try, are ignored, genuinely makes me sick.
“The length of time it takes to get people a simple and fundamental human right.”
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
In more cases than not, I’ll usually be exploring a new hiking trail… or having a nap. Now that I have my dog Obie with me in Halifax the former will be more frequent. Aside from this, I also take aerial hoop classes, play social volleyball and work out at my new favourite community gym Move East. When I’m not connecting with nature or working on that fitness, I’m catching up with friends over delicious food and beers.
We are a group of pioneers, scientists, philanthropists, economists and storytellers challenging the way clean water is provided globally.
Internationally recognised in our fields, each member of the team has hands on experience of working in the field and has helped to develop our technology. Together, we have the scientific, technical, commercial and critical community engagement skills to deliver and make the Clean Water Wave mission a reality.