With the creation of Water.org, the engineer/activist Gary White teamed up with actor Matt Damon to tackle the problem of nearly 1 billion people lacking access to safe water. The conventional approach was to raise charitable donations to drill wells “and basically give water projects away.” Seeing this wasn’t working, White and Damon inquired, Why aren’t charitable efforts succeeding in getting water to where it’s most needed? Turns out subsidies were going to local middlemen who ran the utilities—while the poor were still left having to overpay or walk great distances to get water. Eventually, White and Damon focused on this empowering question: What if local communities could have the means to create their own sources of water? Water.org’s innovative “Water Credit” makes small loans available to people (mostly women) who can then develop or acquire their own water sources. So far it has helped more than a million people worldwide.
See my longer article with an interview with Gary White about this: “How do we get people to care about water?”