Skoll Foundation


Water & Sanitation For The Urban Poor (WSUP)

Skoll Awardee(s): Sam Parker
Award Year: 2014
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Health

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“Helping Cities Reach Everyone with Water and Sanitation Services” 

Every five seconds, the world’s urban population increases by 10 people. Everyone needs access to clean water and sanitation, putting a huge pressure on city service agencies. In response, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor has turned the traditional charity model on its head by developing commercially-viable models to bring water and sanitation to nearly two million people in urban slums in six countries. Sam Parker, a former business manager, has led the organization since 2006. Offering a creative package of private-sector, nongovernmental-organization, and academic expertise, WSUP equips public and private service agencies with the capacity and incentives to serve all citizens in their city.

Graduating from Oxford University in 1983, Sam Parker started his career in business, working for six years in the agrochemical industry, with a focus on Latin America. In 1989, Sam visited a safe house for street children during a business trip to São Paulo, Brazil—he was overwhelmed by the challenges the children faced and inspired to help. This led him to quit his job, start a foundation and return to live in the safe house for two years where he learned how difficult system change is, and the importance of on-the-ground, community engagement.

After that, Sam returned to business with 11 years at a UK-based commodity trading company. Following posts in London, Caracas, New York, and Singapore, Sam was appointed Managing Director of the company’s Asian business. In 2002, he returned to the development sector with a role at the International Save the Children Alliance, leading the organizational development of its 30 national members. In 2006, Sam joined Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) as its first CEO. WSUP brings together private-sector and NGO expertise to address the pressing global challenge of delivering water and sanitation services to the growing number of people who live in urban slums, informal settlements, and shanty towns.




© 2015 Skoll Foundation.