Championing leadership in our industry

When it comes to leadership programs, there are many options. But few – if any – follow the unique model of IWN’s Champions Program, now in its eighth year of serving the water industry.

When it comes to leadership programs, there are many options. But few – if any – follow the unique model of IWN’s Champions Program, now in its eighth year of serving the water industry.

Intelligent Water Networks (IWN) launched the Champions Program in 2015 following feedback from its water corporation members.

Water corporations’ Managing Directors wanted to use IWN’s ability to connect and nurture staff within the water industry, providing benefits individually and collectively.

Since then, the Champions Program has provided leadership and development training to more than 60 people across the Victorian water industry, and it now includes the Tasmanian industry too. Here’s a deeper dive into how the program works and what makes it unique for the sector.

How it works

The Champions Program runs for two years. Every cohort includes a Champion from each of IWN’s member organisations, comprising 15 of Victoria’s water corporations, TasWater and the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA).

It is a professional leadership program based on Mindshop’s coaching principles and tailored to IWN and each participant. Over the two years, Champions learn and develop individually and together by:

  • Taking part in leadership workshops, led by a professional coach
  • Receiving personal mentoring to build capability and leadership skills
  • Learning essential leadership tools and language
  • Building resilience through experiential group activities
  • Developing relationships across the water industry with other Champions and IWN members
  • Gaining broader industry knowledge by being part of the IWN family and working in groups to generate innovative ideas

Perhaps the program’s most unique element is its industry specific approach. Like IWN itself, the Champions Program brings together people from the Victorian and Tasmanian water sectors. In addition, it connects them to each other and the industry by providing high-quality training. This helps retain and nurture the industry’s emerging leaders.

This connection goes both ways. The Champions are a vital connection between IWN and its member organisations. They provide an important conduit for information about IWN’s innovation programs and technology trials to flow back to its member organisations, raising awareness about its work and helping it engage with members more deeply.

Career shaping connections

Like any leadership and development program, the Champions Program’s results are visible through its participants.

Through the years, program graduates have stepped up to become leaders in the water industry, including executive appointments, program manager roles and field-based leadership roles.

Participants have also made career-shaping connections through the program – connections to people who have become friends and mentors, and connections to ideas with the power to transform not just their professional paths but others’ too.

This was especially true for Westernport Water Climate Change & Environment Officer, Meg Humphrys. A few years ago, a group of IWN Champions came up with an idea to hold a Hydrovation Challenge, inviting anyone at an IWN member organisation to submit an innovation idea to solve a common challenge. Entrants pitched their ideas to regional panels until an overall winner was chosen to receive $15,000 in seed and professional development funding.

Humphrys was the winner, with her idea to assess teal carbon capture opportunities in a restored wetland filled with recycled water. She aimed to find a solution to two of the main challenges of managing wastewater treatment plant sites. Two years on, Meg says that idea led to a project. That project has had a significant impact on Westernport Water’s approach to wastewater management.

“This project has shaped our strategic thinking around how to bring in nature-based approaches to wastewater management,” said Humphrys.

“We have a floating wetland pilot trial underway. Westernport Water plans to construct a restorative wetland system in 2025 that aims to store recycled water. It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the process, along with providing multiple other co-benefits.”

More information

Head to IWN’s Champions page for more information about the program, including a video from some of the recent participants.

If you work at an IWN member organisation and would like to find out more about taking part in the program, email the team on

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