Skoll World Forum
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Water.org is a non-profit organization that has transformed thousands of communities in Africa, South Asia, and Central America by providing access to safe water and sanitation. Founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, Water.org works with local partners to deliver innovative solutions for long-term success.
The water and sanitation problem in the developing world is far too big for charity alone. Water.org is driving the water sector for new solutions, new financing models, greater transparency, and real partnerships to create lasting change. Their vision: Safe water and the dignity of a toilet for all, in our lifetime.
Water.org’s microfinance-based WaterCredit Initiative is a market-oriented solution that provides people in need with small loans to address their water and sanitation needs. As the loans are repaid, the capital is recycled, allowing WaterCredit to reach more people than a traditional grant. WaterCredit has helped two million people in six countries access safe water and/or sanitation.
The conventional approach to providing the poor with water and sanitation has left 1 billion people without safe water and 2.6 billion without sanitation.
Water.org develops technology and provides credit so that communities can build and maintain their own water and sanitation systems.
Water.org's leadership believes that financing for water and sanitation services for the poor can be both affordable and ubiquitous.
Water.org has served 1.5 million beneficiaries in six countries.
Everyone has access to credit for water supply and sanitation services.
Leverage social and commercial capital
Water.org demonstrates viability of the model and assists local partners to develop sustainable microfinance streams, then exits, and launches financial initiatives with other types of partners that can help increase access to water and sanitation.
Loan repayment rates sufficient and attractive to leverage capital from various sources.
Gary White found the link between his passion for engineering and his desire to help people while traveling in the developing world and coming to understand what it means to struggle every day to get clean water. Children missed school because they spent their time fetching water. Children and their parents died from water-borne diseases. Poor people bought drinking water by the liter, paying much more than households connected to municipal utilities. Families, and especially mothers, turned to loan sharks to get money to build a toilet. They might need only $50, but at 110 percent interest, it could take half a year’s earnings to repay. Gary co-founded WaterPartners, the organization that became Water.org, to develop water and sanitation systems that community residents could afford to build and maintain. Some were possible only with grant funding, but Gary realized that there would never be enough grant funding to serve everyone, and many families and communities could pay for what they needed if they could have access to affordable credit. This sparked Water.org’s WaterCredit microfinance initiative, which at the time of the Award had disbursed $1.6 million to benefit more than110,000 people through a network of 23 local partners around the world.