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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“If you provide someone with a service that’s worth paying for, that’s better, cheaper, more accessible, than what they had before, they will pay, willingly. It’s common sense. Together, we can get cities across the world to discover all of their customers.”

Sub-Issues: Clean Water, Sanitation More than 300 million slum dwellers worldwide lack access to clean water, and nearly a billion lack basic sanitation. Urban populations are growing rapidly, but cities are falling further and further behind in providing water and sanitation services, largely because of misconceptions about the poor as customers of these services.

The Skoll Awardee: Sam Parker started his career in business, working in the agrochemical industry. His path to becoming the first CEO of Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) started on a business trip to Brazil, where a visit to a safe house for street children inspired him to start a foundation that taught him the difficulties of systems change and the importance of community engagement. He returned to business for another decade but came back to his passion for helping children with a role at International Save the Children Alliance, and then joined WSUP in 2006. He led WSUP’s development of incentives for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) providers to serve low-income areas, and means for residents of those areas to own and manage their own utility systems, through a “toolkit” of business and management models, technical assistance, and access to finance.   At the time of the Award, this had led to access to clean water for more than a million people in six countries, and safe sanitation for more than 350,000. WSUP was providing advisory services to large institutions such as the European Investment Bank and the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program. Sam left WSUP in early 2015 and was succeeded as CEO by Neil Jeffery, an expert on provision of sustainable energy to low-income consumers, and former director of Renewable World.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2014:

  • 50 percent increase in the reach of its services in its six “core” countries (Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Zambia).
  • 75 percent of communities served show improvements in metrics of quality of water and sanitation services.
  • Joined USAID’s 100 Cities initiative in India, with a goal of universal access to a toilet by 2020.




© 2015 Skoll Foundation.