Where Are They Now? Sherry Da

A special anniversary series

Published On: September 18th, 2023

The POLIS Water Sustainability Project is turning 20 this year! We couldn’t have made it this far without the support of our colleagues, partners, advisors, funders, water leaders, and many many supporters across B.C. (and beyond!) who give their time and energy and continually champion the necessary and crucial work of water sustainability and watershed security. To celebrate some of the people who have made this milestone possible, POLIS Communications Director Laura Brandes got in touch with several “POLIS alumni” to find out what they’ve been up to since leaving POLIS, and to ask if there are lessons from their POLIS days that they still carry with them…

Sherry Da was the Water Leaders and Special Projects Coordinator at the POLIS Water Sustainability Project from 2021 to 2022. In this role, her work focused on supporting and convening the growing B.C. Water Leaders and Funders’ Network and ensuring all members of the network were informed, connected, and strategically engaging on opportunities to advance water policy and law reform or implement watershed governance initiatives. Before joining the POLIS team, Sherry completed her BA in International Relations at the University of British Columbia, which included an exchange in Singapore and a co-op position in India. Sherry is interested in exploring and addressing watershed management issues through the intersections of justice, equity, and decolonization. Inspired in part by her time at POLIS, she is currently studying Water Science, Policy, and Management at Oxford University.


Laura Brandes: What is your current job and how long have you been there? 

Sherry: Until recently, I was working at Musqueam Indian Band as a Project Analyst.


Laura: When did you work at POLIS and what did your role involve?

Sherry: I worked at POLIS from 2021 to 2022 as the Water Leaders and Special Projects Coordinator. My role was to coordinate the different branches of the B.C. Water Leaders’ Network, paying attention to alignment, synergy, and emerging themes. I coordinated internal sessions and events, as well as assisted on some research projects.


Laura: What was your biggest contribution to the work at POLIS? And what were the impacts of that work?

Sherry: My biggest contribution would definitely be designing and leading the first workshop for the B.C. water leaders on environmental equity, epistemology, and how it can serve different communities in water policy in British Columbia and beyond. I was very lucky to have had help from Kelly Bannister, the co-director of the POLIS Ecological Project, to ground the workshop, as well as a very receptive audience who were looking to better their practice.

Another project I was very happy to organize was the 2022 World Water Day event “What’s Beneath Our Feet?”, where Josie Osborne, then Minister of the newly created B.C. Ministry of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship, made her first public remarks in that role. Although I was one of many who brought the event together, I had the chance to be the “face” of this public event that brought interested decision-makers, academics, practitioners, and community members to learn and celebrate together.

Sherry ready to livestream POLIS’ 2022 World Water Day event from the Centre for Global Studies’ boardroom.

Laura: Are there any skills or lessons from your POLIS days that you still carry with you today?  

Sherry: Even though it feels like the world is on fire (both literally and figuratively) and we are facing irreparable damage from climate change, POLIS has taught me how groups and individuals can come together strategically to accomplish big things. The power of communities and allies working collaboratively on better climate policies can carry us much farther than we think, no matter how small we may each individually feel. It’s a little cliché but it’s true, and I will never stop talking about my experiences at POLIS that proved this.


Laura: What adventures have you been on since leaving POLIS? Are there any major milestones—either personally or professionally—that you’d like to share? 

Sherry: POLIS has definitely inspired me to work in water policy and co-management of watersheds, so much so that I will be starting an MSc in Water Science, Policy, and Management at Oxford University in fall 2023. I’m excited but also a little nervous about what’s to come!


Laura: There are some big concepts that are central to our ongoing work at POLIS—like ecological governance and watershed security. What do these concepts mean to you? And has your understanding of these ideas changed over time?

Sherry: My thoughts around ecological governance and watershed security are ever-evolving. At the moment, I really see the strength in community-based policy and Indigenous co-management as the most importance factors for successful outcomes in watershed security and environmental justice. I’m sure my thoughts will continue to expand and I’m looking forward to incorporating these concepts and approaches in my practice.


Laura: Now that you can look at the work of POLIS from a bit of a distance, what are your thoughts? Are we achieving what we should be? Where do you think we’re having the biggest impact?

Sherry: Even though I was coordinating the Water Leaders’ Network, the intentional and organic function of the network and its impact never ceased to amaze me. For a seemingly small organization, POLIS is able to accomplish so much with limited resources invested in strategic places. The measureable impacts are already astonishing, but the intangible outcomes are there too and can be seen continuing to reverberate throughout the network.