CIWEM president's blog: introducing the team and their 'wicked solutions'

CIWEM’s new president, Steve Thompsett, introduces his presidential theme, the team and looks forward to the year ahead

CIWEM is proud to name Steve Thompsett its 36th president. Bushra Hussain becomes this year's president-elect, Emily Shipton its junior president, and Sian Leake its junior president-elect. Hannah Coogan completes the presidential team, as this year's vice-president.

Thompsett’s theme for the year ahead is 'wicked problems demand wicked solutions'. Here, he sets out his presidential agenda and themes for his term in office.

Steve Thompsett MCIWEM C.WEM is chief advisor at Blue Compass (pictured above)

"What an honour to become the president of CIWEM, at a time when water and the environment sit at the very centre of some of our biggest global challenges, whether in food production, meeting our energy needs or responding to climate and ecological change.

The complex webs we weave in an attempt to link everything together are inherently problematic. They sometimes result in dramatic changes that we are only just beginning to understand, that predate us by decades or hundreds of years.

We often describe these problems as wicked. Problems that are difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory and changing requirements are often also difficult to recognise.

CIWEM fits in that pivotal place, facilitating the connections between complex environmental challenges and the solutions we need for effective delivery, unlocking widespread benefits and opportunities.

CIWEM’s new strategy is built on the premise that we can join the dots, something that, as a presidential team, we knew we could help to drive forwards.

What can you expect from us? You can expect challenging questions. The presidential team is reaching out to places it may not have been before and engaging a solutions-focused approach as I collect the baton from Nicholas Howden, whose presidential theme was lifelong, multidisciplinary professional development.

The key question for all of us at CIWEM is how we bring our collective expertise together to deliver wicked solutions to the wicked problems we face today.”

Here's what 'wicked solutions' means to the rest of the team:

Junior President Emily Shipton

Emily Shipton GradCIWEM is flood modelling team leader at the Environment Agency (pictured above)

“Simple solutions solve simple problems. Would our natural world be this diverse, vibrant and wondrous if it was simple, even if it is in crisis?

This is why this year’s CIWEM presidential theme, wicked solutions, is so important. There will never be a single answer to the question how we tackle climate change. But each of us has a unique perspective – and potential to harness this to create solutions – if only we take time to be curious.

In my year ahead as CIWEM junior president, I’ll be thinking about how we equip diverse early-career professionals with the skills, resilience and curiosity to deliver wicked solutions and to become future leaders.

How do we make people curious about the environment? What skills do young people need to go out into our uncertain world? How do we build those skills in ways that do not pressure young people or trigger eco-anxiety? It’s a fine line to tread.

One thing is clear; this is not just about young people. The worst thing we could do is push young people to solve the climate emergency, while failing to tap our more experienced members’ extraordinary knowledge. We need to work together, across generations.”

President Elect Bushra Hussain

"To understand our environment, we first and foremost must understand that change is inevitable. Our earth lives and breathes and changes over time, just as we do. Trying to understand the science of environmental change on earth is a moving target, and deciphering which changes we see in our environment are natural evolutionary patterns and which have been induced by our behaviours is the key to understanding what we can change and what we cannot.

We have been seeing some unprecedented climatic events over the last several years, from heatwaves, forest fires, droughts, floods, and now the impending energy crisis.

We, the human race, have existed on earth for around 2 million years, compare that to the 4.5 billion years the earth has been in existence! The earth will probably survive for another 4.5 billion years, but the question is will we?

Promoting environmental good practice from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘need to have’ is the key driver to getting those human induced issues under better control. Easier said than done?, I agree, that’s why the issues we face are referred to as ‘wicked’.

This year’s Presidential theme raises difficult questions, but the good news is there isn’t only one right answer, but we all need to act, and we need to act fast."

Junior President Elect Sian Leake

Sian Leake MCIWEM (pictured above)

"Wicked solutions means finding solutions to the climate crisis that are new, innovative and ground-breaking. Where we are thinking outside of the box and pushing the bounds of our creativity. Yet finding such solutions cannot be done in isolation, we need to come together as a global community to share ideas and leverage our skills and expertise.

CIWEM is a network of bold and ambitious water and environmental professionals that are eager to play their part in solving the climate crisis. Yet to solve the crisis we must share our knowledge so that we can learn from each other rather than acting in silos. Therefore, as my role as junior president elect I hope that through CIWEM I can create spaces for professionals to connect for peer-to-peer learning, development and action."

Vice President Hannah Coogan

Hannah Coogan FCIWEM C.WEM is regional delivery director at Binnies (pictured above)

“As a geographer by background, I was always taught to look at solutions for environmental challenges through an economic, social and environmental lens. This becomes ever more important given the urgency of the climate and ecological emergency.

Those difficult decisions that 20 years ago were put off for the ‘medium term’ are now urgent, such as the need to rapidly adapt to a net zero way of living and the need for coastal adaptation as sea levels rise. These cannot be viewed as environmental challenges alone.

The priority given to much needed economic and funding policy, alongside societal engagement, expectations and awareness needs to increase and CIWEM have a key role in this space.

I have worked with many communities on the front line of environmental challenges, alongside volunteering for CIWEM. This is driven by the belief that supporting professionals to develop in their career will equip them better to support such communities as climate change bites.

I bring this passion and enthusiasm to my role as Vice President. I’d like the industry to listen and engage with wider voices and seek to collaboratively address environmental challenges. We can only bring about the change we need if we can truly address challenges through a social, environmental and economic lens.”

Contact the presidential team at

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