From National Geographic Explorer to Crawford water policy expert

06 March 2023

Crawford School introduces our fantastic staff, so you can meet the people of Asia and the Pacific’s leading graduate policy school.

This time around, we talk to Dr Safa Fanaian about moving to Canberra in 2023, her research interests and why she wanted to work at Crawford.

What is your role at Crawford School and what are you looking forward to this year? I am a post-doctoral research fellow supporting Prof Quinten Grafton on the Global Commission for the Economics of Water. This year I am looking forward to help teach water justice modules and facilitate societal dialogues to build ground-up insights on water challenges and solutions with partners across the world and here in Australia as well.

What’s been your favourite moment working at Crawford so far? I attended the first School Director’s meeting in my first week at Crawford and was lucky to meet many people. There was also small welcome drinks from the READ group that was great as well. I am looking forward to meeting more people at Crawford and learning more about the wonderful research happening here.

Can you give an overview of your research area and why it’s important? My research area is the tricky part of bridging the gap between policy, practice and reality of water-related challenges. Bridging this gap requires connecting the technical knowledge to policy and social reality of communities that live through water risks. This bridging is also complicated and vital because we have the know-how and a whole array of solution option to address global water challenges yet these challenges are still ongoing and disproportionally affect the most vulnerable. This is where the societal dialogues help with insights on why things worked and what needs to be done. There are no simple solutions to the water challenges and I want to encourage familiarity with complex (not complicated) approaches.

What did you do before coming to Crawford? Before Crawford, I had the privilege of spending four and half years contemplating how physical water-risk and their governance processes shape each other in intermediate city of India. This contemplation resulted in a doctorate from the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford. I also did many side gigs while doing the Ph.D., I am a National Geographic Explorer, I also worked with a hedge fund to measure water risks of publicly listed companies, and helped as a teaching assistant on few courses for the master program Water Science and Policy Management, University of Oxford. Before the Ph.D., I worked as a research fellow at SacWATERs where I facilitated policy dialogues on to improve the governance of Brahmaputra River and managed a South Asian water quality network called Arsenic Knowledge and Action Network.

What are you looking forward to in 2023? I am looking forward to the second UN water conference which is happening in March. I am also looking forward to exploring the different hike trails around Canberra and possibly explore more of wonderful Australia.

What is one thing that you can’t live without? Water

What is one thing you have brought with you? A little pink knitted tortoise that is my writing cheerleader.

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