Skoll Foundation

 

Water.org

Skoll Entrepreneur(s): Gary White
Award Year: 2009
Focus Area(s) Addressed:

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Economic Opportunity, Health

Clean Water; Financial Services; Sanitation

The conventional wisdom that subsidies are necessary to provide the world’s poor with safe water and sanitation has left 1 billion people without safe water and 2.6 billion without sanitation.

The social entrepreneur: 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.

Quote:

“We believe we can lead in making financing for water and sanitation services for the poor both affordable and ubiquitous.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2009:

  • 329,443 Water Credit loans totaling $9.4 million
  • Leveraged an additional $62 million in social and credit capital
  • 5 million individual beneficiaries
  • 44 active partners in 6 countries
  • 99 percent of loans repaid (average loan size $186)
  • Improvements in sanitation lead to improvements in health
  • Better access to water frees time for education and economic activity

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