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  • Writer's pictureNicola Smart

Meet our team: Q&A with volunteer Ian Warren

Updated: Apr 5

Partner Housing is blessed with selfless voluntary services by its board, members and volunteers. Ian Warren is one of our valued directors, and has been volunteering his extensive probono services for PHA for three and a half years.

Ian is the principal of consulting firm, Stellen Engineering, specialising in civil engineering including civil, storm water, drainage and sanitation design. With his extensive background in civil engineering and management, Ian Warren is well placed to manage one of Partner Housing’s key programs, the provision of water reticulation to villages in Ranongga and Vella Lavella in the remote Solomon Islands Western Province.

Ian has recently taken on another key Partner Housing role. Driven by the heartbreak of the extensive Australian bushfire damage, Ian has initiated and is coordinating the Partner Housing program to provide probono professional services to those in need. You can find out more about this at

Check out our Q&A with Ian below.

Why did you join PHA?

''I run an engineering business and I had been looking for a long time for a way to connect and give to communities beyond our home here in Australia.

David introduced me to the program of water and sanitation projects in the Solomon Islands. There was diving and surfing. And, being civil engineers, it seemed like the perfect fit.

So I went for it.

What are your skills?

You know, I trained as an engineer but I’m not that good at it. Not technically.

But I think I’m good at casting a vision and getting people alongside me to execute on it.

Inspiring people to push through the dip once the novelty wears off. To show up each month or year and do the important work. The things that matter but aren’t often seen.

What challenges have you encountered in working with PHA?

Working in unfamiliar cultures is really difficult. We must rely on others to help us for almost everything. From buying the tiniest nail. To gaining political permission. And this problem usually can’t be solved with only money.

We have to go into these communities and find the people with the shared values. The others like us. The ones who want to go in the direction we’re going. They’re hard to find.

To find them, we have to start with empathy. Every time. That’s difficult in your own culture, let alone in a totally unfamiliar one. I think that’s my biggest challenge.

What are you excited about in the work you're doing?

For me, this work is not about delivering water and sanitation. It’s not even about health metrics and improved physical well-being. Those are good and worthy things, no doubt.

But I’m excited to use our work to build the kind of organisation that lasts longer than a rusted pipe. Or a worn washer.

I’m excited to build an organisation that makes a profit. Profit that allows self-direction. Investment in training local people. In research and development. In serving more people. Reaching further into communities. And one that spans the generations.''

Ian has also recently been featured in an article on his inspired idea to provide pro bono assistance to those affected by the summer bushfires in Australia. You can find that article here in Create Magazine, and our previous blog post on it here.

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