Scott Harrison has contributed to the provision of safe drinking water to millions of people throughout the world. The founder and CEO of charity: water, one of the world’s most well-known humanitarian organizations, discusses how his approach to running a non-profit — from innovation to strategy to partnerships — can be used by any business to help produce exceptional success.
Harrison worked as a nightclub promoter in New York City for over 10 years. When he was 28, he decided it was time for a radical shift and departed to work as a photographer on a medical ship off the coast of Liberia, West Africa.
Harrison observed great poverty and illness and learned that many of the illnesses and diseases that required treatment were waterborne. With a renewed appreciation for the need for safe drinking water, Harrison returned to New York City in 2006 and formed a small team to launch a non-profit committed to the problem.
Harrison has been named to Fortune magazine‘s 40 Under 40 list, Forbes’ Impact 30, and Fast Company‘s 100 Most Creative People in Business, where he was ranked #10. He is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and the author of the New York Times bestseller Thirst.
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Inspiring Talks by Scott Harrison
- “Imagine you’re standing on an island, looking at the water on all sides. You think that this little piece of real estate, which represents your capacity for love, is all there is. Then you have your first child, and a bubbling happens off in the distance and a giant new island appears. You realize that the new island was part of your heart all along, just submerged. And then you think you could never love another child like this one, but you look off to the left, and a brand-new island appears: your second child. And your heart expands even more. You’re not borrowing from or shutting down other parts to feel more love. It’s an additive process, like reclaiming land from the sea.”
- “Pope Francis said something that I can’t get out of my head: “A single individual is enough for hope to exist. And that individual can be you.”
- “He would quote from Matthew 25, where Jesus says, rather provocatively, that at the end of our lives, God will judge us by whether we fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, offered hospitality to the outcast, clothed the unclothed, healed the sick, and visited people in prison. Do these things for them, and you do them for Him.”
- “Try to focus on the hope of the people we will help. The hopes and dreams in a mother’s heart are the same anywhere in the world.”
- “The transparency stops the minute the donor gives, I assume charities are always trying to have an impact, but they did a bad job connecting donors to that impact.”
- “I think so many charities have operated in shame and guilt: Let me make you feel as bad as possible about yourself so you’ll reach into your wallet and give. For us, it’s much more invitational. It’s a great opportunity not based on guilt or shame, no one is going to wear a T-shirt about an organization that makes you feel lousy about yourself. But we do wear T-shirts from Nike because Nike makes us feel great about ourselves. Nike believes that within us is greatness.”
- “Working in an organization with your vocation doesn’t need to be a bummer, I don’t think you need to walk around with a sad face all day because you’re working in conditions of extreme poverty.”
- “It should be cool to give. It should be cool to be generous. It should be cool to say yes to helping out.”
- “The world is full of stunning colors. But they’re only beautiful if you don’t have to drink them.”
- “Business leaders are trained to “shoot, move and communicate.” But the pandemic has called on them to rewrite the leadership playbook.”