In each edition of this blog, you will get to know a couple of our members from our organization or our local partners. Who is driving our organization and our projects, and what drives them? 

For the 4th edition of this blog, I am happy to introduce you to Sven Spierings. Sven recently joined EWB, to become our new Board member and lead of the Partnerships team.

Sven has a passion for esthetics. He is an architect and an avid musician, having started playing several instruments from the early age of 7. Sven’s tendency to create became underlined with his recent decision to devote himself to entrepreneurship and setting up his own start-up.

Originally from the Netherlands, Sven grew up in the USA, in a suburban town just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. After completing his degree in Architecture at the TU Delft (2006) he worked as an architect on many different types of projects. For the last ten years, he worked at Royal HaskoningDHV on the development and design of infrastructural projects.

However, recently Sven decided to pursue new pathways. By completing his MBA in 2020, he laid the foundation to tune into his entrepreneurial calling and set the pathways to make a positive impact:

“At the end of 2020, I decided to stop working for RHDHV and embark on a new journey as an entrepreneur. I also had an intrinsic desire to create a greater impact on the lives of others, using my knowledge and skills. I knew that the best way to do this was to use the technical, project, and team leadership skills that I had developed as a professional in the last fourteen years.”

Sven in a nutshell: 42 years young, Rotterdam-based, lives with his wife and 2 daughters. When not with his family or working, you can find him behind the drums, guitar or piano,  in the Indie hard rock band My Own Army.

From this ambition, how did you encounter EWB?

“As if by fate, my wife happened to be in contact with Antonio [chair of the board – Ed.] at this exact time, who mentioned he worked for EWB-NL. A few weeks later I met with Antonio for a cappuccino, and he told me more about what EWB-NL does and how it works. I was immediately hooked, as I felt that together with the talented and determined engineers at EWB-NL, I could use my skills and experience to help improve the lives of others and create a positive impact.”

What will your role include?

At EWB-NL, I am the partnerships team lead and a member of the board. The partnerships team develops and nourishes relationships with local and commercial partners who are interested in working together with EWB-NL. We, additionally, support the project teams in finding sponsors/funds and projects. 

As a board member, I partake in the development of EWB-NL’s strategic direction and work closely with the other board members to ensure that we are effectively helping those who need our engineering support.”

What are you looking forward to doing at EWB?

“In these roles, I look forward to being part of the long-term growth and development of EWB-NL as an organization, with the effect that EWB-NL’s volunteers find continuity and enjoyment in their work, helping vulnerable communities through engineering.”

What is the key for ensuring an impact to be truly sustainable, according to you?

“I believe that truly sustainable impact lies in understanding our stakeholders on a deep level. This means understanding the rationale behind their requests and building a relationship with them based on mutual respect, trust, and honesty.

When we provide an engineering solution that is tailored to resolve the heart of the problem, we are guaranteeing local stakeholders and vulnerable communities effective and long-term assistance.”

What does it mean to engineer without borders? Why are borders (ir)relevant?

“Borders are an instinctive way for us to make sense of our world. They help us comprehend complex things by splitting them up into manageable pieces. For these reasons, borders are relevant. 

However, when borders become mental and physical barriers that prevent us from understanding and caring about the needs of others, they become counterproductive and counterintuitive.

To engineer without borders, to me, therefore means overcoming mental and physical barriers, and innovating to help those in need in the best way possible, regardless of their situation. It’s about a sense of responsibility towards humankind and creating a bigger impact outside of your personal bubble.”

One of the quotes EWB-NL stands by is “Be the change you want to see in the world”. What is the change that the world needs according to you?

“Empathy. Perhaps it’s the unprecedented time we live in, but empathy is something that I feel the world could use more of today. For us to overcome the problems we face, we need to be able to place ourselves in the situation of another and feel what they are experiencing. These problems can have a global scale, like caring for our environment and fighting poverty, to local problems, like diligently wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of Covid, which saves lives.”

“Showing empathy is difficult. It requires effort and imagination. It is a crucial element, however, in breaking down barriers and spurring collaboration. As social and empathic beings, together we can find solutions to our greatest problems that we would otherwise never achieve by ourselves.”

Urgent challenges need collaboration: a notion that is at the heart of EWB. It is reflected in our endeavors both in terms of project collaborations with local partners and communities, as in terms of knowledge sharing with partners and cross-border EWB branches.

However, in recognizing that successful working together requires empathy, Sven also highlights the importance of our role as individuals and our development as cognitive and emotional beings.

Hence, to engineer without borders, also means to engage in a personal journey. One in which we challenge our own beliefs and standards, and learn to develop these consciously. Journeys that we share, and that will allow us to help each other grow at the same time.

Stay tuned for the next edition of this miniblog!

Date: 14-6-2021

Edited by: Eva Labrujere