Postcard from Spain: Building and maintaining networks and relationships is key

Tim Grieve, Advance member based in Spain

Tim Grieve Contributor

Please tell us a little bit about yourself, where your home is in Australia, and where you now call home.

I was born and raised in Melbourne, and have since moved all around the world, working for almost 20 years in the search for solutions to overcome the challenges of poor and vulnerable communities’ access to clean water and basic sanitation.

After graduating from both Monash and Deakin University, I started my career with UNICEF, which allowed me to create meaningful impact all over the world, developing connections with the many inspiring people I had the privilege of working with. In 2020, I moved on to start a new role at the German WASH Network, which has now landed me in my new home base – Spain. 

Throughout my career I have built teams and created partnerships between governments, banks, UN agencies, NGOs, the private sector and academia all in the pursuit of delivering innovative and lasting solutions that overcome multiple risks such as climate change and conflict. Solutions that invest in, and are led by local communities, leaving no one behind.

What led you to move overseas, and what advice would you give for those following in your path?

As many young Australians have the privilege of doing, I first traveled overseas to experience new places and cultures. I saved for a while, and managed to spend stints of time in North Africa, Asia and the Middle East. These early travels were a pivotal moment in my life.

Coming from Australia I had never truly seen poverty like I saw in a lot of the countries I traveled to, most of which was caused by overpopulation, corruption, conflict and environmental degradation.

While this was shocking, I was delighted to find that despite the circumstances, the people I met were exceedingly hospitable, and were happy to share their culture and wisdom with me, with no expectation of something in return.

I knew, once I returned to Australia, that I wanted to spend my life contributing something to the incredible people that had already done so much for me. I started reading articles, and was inspired to discover the massive impact clean drinking water and basic sanitation has had on improving the health and well-being of many. I knew then that this would be the best way for me to contribute something back.

What’s been one of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in making your move?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to overcome throughout my travels, and the various countries I’ve worked in, has been witnessing the immensely difficult circumstances a large population of the world experience every day.

It can sometimes feel hopeless when your goal is to help, so figuring out the most effective and lasting way to do so has been incredibly difficult but very rewarding.

How have you found creating a new network in your new home? Have you still managed to maintain your connections in Australia?

The beautiful thing about my job, and my passion, is its innate ability to build networks. I view water as a connector, and have seen it link communities of people, some of whom have been previously at war with one another. Because of this, I’ve managed to forge wonderful relationships with people all over the world, passionate people with a drive to help others.

Honestly, as I followed a global career which was both exciting and challenging, I had not foreseen how strong the pull to return to Australia would be after so many years abroad.  As such, apart from friends and family, I had neglected to maintain strong business contacts that would help me transition back to working in Australia. I recommend anyone pursuing long term work overseas to continue to foster strong connections in Australia in their chosen industry.

I recommend anyone pursuing long term work overseas to continue to foster strong connections in Australia in their chosen industry.

What are some of the benefits that have come from becoming a Global Australian?

Becoming a Global Australian has shaped the trajectory of not just my career, but my life. It has made me the person I am today. From my early travels inspiring me to find my passion for helping others, and figuring out the way I could do this, to my work spanning across the globe, being a Global Australian has connected me to leading innovations, and helped me become resourceful and adaptable while experiencing the joys of diverse communities, wisdom and culture.

Connect with Tim

Tim Grieve is an executive level leader, manager, and communicator with 20 years of experience, predominantly in the United Nations, driving innovative large-scale public policy and service delivery in support of governments in challenging environments across the globe. He recently participated in Advance’s inaugural Talent Return Program.