The impact of water on an individuals quality of life cannot be understated. As Water.org notes, water connects every aspect of life and thus, individuals lacking this necessity are at a severe disadvantage in terms of health, education and work. This realisation is the backbone of Water.org, a nonprofit organisation built on the premise that by providing access to water, problems can be turned into potential. The following paragraphs will present an in-depth review of Water.org in terms of their mission, vision, organisational structure, action plans and overall impact. Through this analysis, it becomes clear that Water.org is a pioneer in their field of philanthropy as they present a unique solution to the water crisis, a microeconomic model aimed at unleashing the power of the power and resulting in a dynamic in which these individuals are seen as customers rather than charity.
About the Organisation
Water.org was formed in 2009, the result of a merger between two prominent NPO's in the field with a shared goal in mind: to provide access to safe water and sanitation in developing countries. Gary White, co-founder of WaterPartners International, and Matt Damon, co-founder of H20 Africa, decided to join efforts after meeting at an international summit on global poverty and discovering that their approaches and strengths complemented each other (Water.org, 2018). Damon's H20 Africa was initially founded as a way to funnel money to well-managed NGOs in Africa and White's WaterPartners, a two-decades-old group, had a unique approach to providing water access which greatly influenced the structure and actions of the newfound organisation, Water.org (Fast Company Staff 2011). WaterPartner's had less to do with digging wells and more to do with encouraging communities to participate in the creation and ownership of water and sanitation systems that function as mini-utilities (Fast Company Staff 2011).
The vision statement outlined for Water.org encapsulates both the mission of this organisation as well as the plan in which to achieve this mission: “Scaling Smart Solutions, Creating Bright Futures” (Water.org 2018). In terms of the first part, the notion of scaling comes when considering the mass of individuals reached, number of countries affected, and the number of programs introduced (Water.org 2016). The 2016 annual report highlights the level of impact, at the end of 2016 the organisation had reached over five million people with water and sanitation. When considering the second part of this vision, part of creating bright futures stems from the organisation's ability to assist the 844 million individuals living without access to safe water and the 2.3 billion people living without access to improved sanitation. The organisation presents four main areas, or “big opportunities”, in which providing aid can improve the lives of those in need. The first is through the empowerment of women, as women are disproportionately affected by the water crisis as they are often responsible for collecting water. This takes time away from work, school, and caring for children thus, lack of water has a boatload of social repercussions. Another key area for Water.org is health, the website states that “the water crisis is a health crisis”, this follows that access to safe water and sanitation means opportunity for improved health and the ability to help fight disease (2018). The social ramifications of limited access to water are further continued in the areas of children's well-being and education. Children are often responsible for collecting water to help their families which takes time away from school and play (Water.org 2018). Water.org emphasises that a reduction in time spent collecting water has been found to increase school attendance and thus, grant children time to play and an opportunity for a brighter future (2018).
The final area which Water.org aims to affect is the economic crisis associated with countries with limited access to water or sanitation. The organisation's rationale is that time spent gathering water or seeking safe sanitation accounts for billions in lost economic opportunities, thus, access to these things will give families more time to pursue education and work opportunities (Water.org 2018). The extent to which this vision and the mission have been achieved will be evaluated in the proceeding paragraphs when considering the overall impact of the organisation.
As mentioned, the two co-founders of Water.org include Gary White and Matt Damon. White is the CEO this organisation lending 25 years of experience, expertise, and entrepreneurial vision in the field. White is a leading advisor in the water and sanitation space, this is evident by his involvement in counselling organisations such as the Skoll Foundation, MasterCard Foundation, PepsiCo Foundation, IKEA Foundation and the Caterpillar Foundation in response to the global water crisis (Water.org 2018). White is the developer of Water.org's unique WaterCredit Initiative which creates new financing options for poor populations to meet their water supply and sanitation needs, a concept which now serves as a model in the sector and will be discussed further when considering action plans and impact. Academy Award winner Damon is an actor, screenwriter, producer and humanitarian who has garnered international acclaim and is a major presence both on- and off-screen. Damon's celebrity presence presents a huge asset to this organisation, especially in terms of marketing and fundraising, allowing Water.org to reach a wider array of people with less effort. The next addition comes in the form of Jennifer Schorsch, a woman with more than 20 years of experience in strategic consulting, consumer marketing, and operational leadership (Water.org 2018). Schorsch acts as the organisation's president, ensuring that Water.org's financial and departmental strategies promote sustained growth, accelerate the organisation's impact, and are effectively implemented throughout the organisation (Water.org 2018). Her impact is obvious as she has accelerated the organisation's impact from 180,000 people reached with water and sanitation in 2011 to 1.1 million reached in 2015 alone. In the same five-year period, annual revenue grew from $9M to $21M (Water.org 2018).
Water.org's board is a composite of 16 members with expertise in a wide range of fields. These individuals and their respective areas of proficiency span from Adam Schechter, the Executive Vice President of Merck, a global healthcare company; to Cortney Erin, the Head of Global Technical Recruiting at Facebook Inc; to Andy Sereyan, the President and CEO of Andrews McMeel Universal, a publishing company (Water.org 2018). It is essential that a board be well versed on all areas of running an organisation, in terms of Water.org this means hosting a passionate group of individuals who all excel in their respective fields, but have a joint interest in ending the world water crisis. The majority of the board members are CEO's, company founders or managing partners of their own organisation proving them more than capable of advancing Water.org's mission. When considering organisational structure, where the board navigates the organisation, the team members are the actual individuals on the ground and main agents of empowerment. Water.org is an extensive organisation with over 100 team members located across Asia, Africa, South America and the United States (Water.org 2018). For an organisation of this magnitude it is essential that employees reach all corners of the globe as this is the most effective way to deliver services and understand the needs of the individuals being helped.
Plan of Action: WaterCredit Initiative®
The most interesting feature of Water.org is its plan of action. This organisation recognised that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the global water crisis and instead, sought a plan that was long-term and sustainable. This culminated in the form of the WaterCredit Initiative® which takes a market-driven and people driven approach. WaterCredit seeks to tackle two related goals: lack of access to clean water and safe sanitation, and lack of access to finance to procure it among economically active poor people throughout the developing world (Devex.com 2015). This program then offers funding to NGOs and micro-finance providers for capacity building and technical assistance which then allows these partners to leverage funding from banks and capital markets to disperse loans to people in need (World Bank Group 2015). These borrowers pay water and sanitation providers for products and services creating a situation in which the people in need are customers, solving their own solution, rather than charity. WaterCredit further enables more clean water solutions because as the loans are being repaid, this capital can be redeployed to additional people in need of safe water (Water.org n.d.). This micro-finance solution emphasises the power of the people and is based on a concept Gary White puts forward in which “the poor are not a problem to be solved, they are the solution” (Thorpe 2016).
Water.org has reached more than nine million people through more than 2.2 million loans, and their MFIs and NGO partners worldwide have allowed for the circulation of $722 million to families in the developing world (Water.org 2018). To date, the initiative has 24 active WaterCredit Partner Organizations in India (since 2004), Bangladesh (since 2003), Kenya (since 2005) and Uganda (since 2010), reflecting a blend of non-profit and for-profit entities (Devex.com 2015). As identified by Water. org, the system works in the following sequence: the organisation identifies a region that is ready for a micro-finance solution and then patterns with a financial institution to provide affordable water and sanitation loans to families in need (2018). Next, these micro-finance partners establish water and sanitation loans in their portfolio of offerings and Water.or g supports them by providing resources, education, connections with other practitioners and technical assistance to get them started (Water.org 2018). Finally, borrowers use these loans to put a tap or toilet in their homes and get access to local resources who can do the work (Water.org 2018). Across the thirteen countries which Water.org reaches, there are 80 micro-financing partners who are on the front line in implementing programs.
This chart summarises the massive impact which Water.org and their WaterCredit system has had on developing countries around the world. The wide scope and detail-oriented approach of this organisation is obvious, this further verifies the overall mission and vision of Water.org. It can be reported that over 10 million individuals in the developing world have been positively impacted by the involvement of Water.org and their partners. Interesting to note is the lack of impact in Brazil with only 415 people reached, especially given the mass of individuals in this country without access to clean water or sanitation and the length of involvement from Water.org. The website reports that Water.org began market research on the country in 2014 and there is a substantial amount of loans through the WaterCredit system, however, this involvement is not reflected in the number of people reached.
Water.org has their annual tax return listed on their website, this displays the main source of funding for the organisation which is contributions and grants. For the 2016 year, the organisation received $16,029,028 dollars (USDT, IRS 2016). In the organisations annual 2016 report there are a number of organisations listed which contributed $250,000 to $999,999 dollars, of these includes the IKEA Foundation, INDITEX, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation and the Cartier Charitable Foundation (2016). Water.org also participates in cause marketing in which a portion of the purchase price charged by a commercial business is donated to a specific charity. When consumers purchase products from companies such as Stella Artois, an alcohol brand, Oxi Fresh, a carpet cleaning brand, or Amazon, an online retailer, among others, some of this revenue is donated to Water.org. This allows the organisation to gain both revenue as well as awareness for their organisation and mission.
Water.org and their dedication and creativity when tackling the water crisis is clear. They have become a pioneer in the water and sanitation field as their program, WaterCredit, utilises macroeconomic concepts and capitalises on market structures in order to create a sustainable solution. Through this system, Water.org has been able to execute its mission of “scaling better solutions, creating brighter futures”, enabling the aid of over 10 million individuals in developing countries. The fact that Matt Damon is one of the co-founders adds a great deal of celebrity value and credibility to the organisation as well as free advertising. This, coupled with the reputation and expertise of Gary White, presents a leadership team leading Water.org into a comprehensive and wholesome future. All in all, this organisation proves to be effectual, transparent and unique and has been a true enabler of change throughout the world.
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