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Irna van der MolenDr. Irna van der Molen (1969) is Scientific Director at the Reliefbase. Currently, she is policy advisor at the UT on knowledge transfer and valorization. She holds an MA degree in Public Administration, an MSc in Risk Management (Cum Laude), and a PhD in Water Resource management.

These three areas reflect the desire to work with knowledge and expertise from different angles and perspectives. Through her connection with the University of Twente, she is perfectly able to see different perspectives, to open up opportunities that were not there before, and to generate enthusiasm among people working together on innovations that can improve the lives of those most in need. She has worked as researcher, as consultant, and is familiar with the context of international organizations. At the same time, she has also experienced the reality of living and working under basic conditions in low-income countries and conflict areas.

At the start of her career, she worked first with IDEM consult and later with Geoplan International for clients such as the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment; the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment; and the ‘Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit’ (GTZ, Germany). Later, she conducted research in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the USA and paid visits to India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Palestinian Territories, Israel, Egypt and Lebanon. She has been responsible as project leader for several international projects in the Middle-East, and always in partnership with local universities, NGOs or local government authorities.

In 2006, she completed the ‘Training of Experts in Rapid Assistance and Co-operation for Conflict Prevention Operations, Crisis Management and Post-Conflict Rehabilitation’ (REACT), in Madrid, Spain. The training was organized by Helsinki España, in collaboration with ICRC; the Spanish Red Cross; The Ministry of Defence (Spain); the Ministry of the Interior (Spain); NATO; the United Nations; the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE); the European Union; United States Institute of Peace (USIP); Peace Operations Training Institute; and other organizations.

Between 2008 and 2011 she participated in the Dutch Knowledge Network on Peace, Security and Development. Between 2007 and 2011, she has worked closely together with the Centre for Conflict Studies, University of Utrecht. Between September 2012 and December 2014, she worked as Assistant Professor in Water management, Security and Governance for the Maastricht School of Management in addition to her position at the University of Twente. From 2016, she worked in cooperation with the Safety Region Twente (Veiligheidsregio Twente) as UT liaison for Twente Safety & Security in which the Twente Safety Region, 14 municipalities, the knowledge institutes and companies worked together on innovations in the safety and security domain.

Drs Alexander Heijnen (1967) is Director and Business Developer at the Reliefbase Foundation. Alexander studied Political Science at the University of Leiden and holds his MA Degree in Politics and Business Cooperation. For more than twenty years he is working as a social entrepreneur with a focus on social responsibility and a program manager on safety & security issues.

Alexander has a strong political-administrative empathy and is environment-sensitive. Alexander is a bridge builder pur sang and comes to the fore in a complex environment where different interests have to be brought together to reach social return on investment.

Alexander has his own consultancy firm that focuses on safety and risk and crisis management issues with specific focus
areas as the protection of vital infrastructures, wildfire management, water management, and strategic management and operational issues within the police department, safety regions, judiciary, fire brigade, defense organization, ministries and municipalities. Alexander has over 20 years of experience working as a management consultant, program manager in the Netherlands and abroad at the cutting edge of policy advice and organizational change. As a manager, he describes himself as people-oriented, enterprising and result-oriented. His passion as a manager is to further develop people as individuals and as part of a team by making the most of their strength. For more than 5 years he was adjunct director of DCE Consultants.
He also worked for larger an medium scale consultancy firms as Ernst & Young, Cap Gemini, Lysias Advies before he started in 2010 his own firm.

His strength as an advisor lies in quickly switching between strategic and operational level. Over the past years, he has developed himself as a content specialist in the field of risk and crisis management and in (further) developing new innovative concepts in an consortium of public-private partnerships. Examples of these concepts during his career are Sterrekind, develop an interactive platform that makes a measurable contribution to the growing up and development of children with a chronic or long-term illness. The Relief Base is a joint innovation center for humanitarian aid and the further development of the Risk Factory an education and experience concept on Safety and Health.

Alexander regularly publishes on his experiences in relevant professional journals, is a regular speaker and chairman of the day at national conferences and since 2009 has been a member of the national Self-reliance Expert Group.

Dr. Gül Özerol (1977) is Knowledge and Communication Director at the ReliefBase. At the same time, she is Assistant Professor at the University of Twente, and Senior Water Editor at Fanack. Gül holds a PhD in Innovation and Governance for Sustainable Development from the University of Twente, an MSc degree in Integrated Assessment from the University of Osnabrück, Germany, and BSc and MSc degrees in Industrial Engineering from the Middle East Technical University, Turkey. She also participated in the water diplomacy workshop, a training-of-trainers programme organized and hosted by MIT, Tufts University and Harvard University.

Over the past 20 years, Gül has worked as a researcher, consultant and trainer in Europe, North America, Middle East and North Africa, and lived in the Netherlands, Turkey, Palestine, Germany and the United States. Building on her interdisciplinary and international background, she has developed partnerships with a diverse set of organizations in the fields of water governance and cooperation, energy transition and climate change.

Gül is one of the initiators of PADUCO (Palestinian-Dutch Academic Cooperation Programme on Water) which has been running from 2013 through 2019 and funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Within PADUCO, she has been coordinating a team of more than 50 researchers and 20 students from 11 universities in Palestine and the Netherlands. She also collaborates in applied research projects on water management and governance, wastewater reuse and gender mainstreaming. Recently she has contributed to practice-oriented projects on urban water and climate resilience, such as the CATCH (Water sensitive cities: the answer to challenges of extreme weather events), which focuses on midsize cities in the North Sea Region and integrates the expertise of social and technical scientists with the needs of local stakeholders.

Co-creation and communication of knowledge to improve cooperation is a recurring theme in Gül’s work. Through her editorial position in Fanack, she collaborated with local and international scholars, practitioners and journalists to communicate the water stories of the Middle East and North Africa region. In 2017, she has developed and co-organized the first ever water diplomacy training for young professionals in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. The training was funded and hosted by the Swedish Institute Alexandria, and involved trainers and participants from governmental and non-governmental organizations, private sector, academia and the media.