“You should learn more about this guy Scott Harrison, he’s doing it right. In fact, you guys [HBI] should focus on water. That’s what poor people really need. Focus on clean water and you’ll really make a difference.”
“Really,” I say, fully aware of Scott Harrison and the super successful non-governmental organization (NGO) he runs, Charity: water, “tell me more about why you say that?”
So started a conversation that caused me to pause and get really inquisitive. I get a lot of these decelerations of clarity. Under most circumstances I don't mind when people offer advice about how they think we should run HBI or focus or programs and projects. Heck, I am a work in progress. I am constantly learning.
However, I have been thinking a lot about Charity Water and Scott Harrison.
I first learned about Harrison when a friend pointed me to his mega-viewed YouTube video. I really liked it. The video is entertaining and follows a standard “Heroes story” plot. Harrison and his team at Charity Water have really shaken up the NGO world. He’s helped to craft a funding model that draws the donor into a deeper relationship with the Charity Water work. His model is impressive.
Harrison has done a great job developing his NGO into the single focus approach. He is helping to shape a true solution to water scarcity. The world needs safe, clean water – and it needs holistic, integrated approaches. The world needs and deserves, responses that focus on "sum of all parts" collaboration. Underserved communities, in many instances, understand the problems, they need access to resources and support. The single greatest mechanism to address complex challenges is collaboration.
Take for example the boys who live in our Casa Girasoles home in the desert city of Ica. In order for them to participate in school activities, they are required to wear a standard uniform. Sure, they can attend school without their uniform, but they are not allowed to participate in any extracurricular activities. The sort of activities critical to growth, development and socialization. The boys living in the Casa Girasoles home come from very traumatized and challenging backgrounds. Our home provides all the basics – clean water, comfortable housing, nutritious food; but, the basics are not enough. If we abided by the single solution methodology, we would stop short of getting them school uniforms . . . but we can't. They deserve to live a full, meaningful life. They deserve the opportunities that come from socialization, from community, from hope.
Or think about a 3-month old boy and his 16-year old mother I met in the city of Cusco. The baby boy was born at 34 weeks with hydrocephaly. His 16-year old mother lives with her mother in a home for domestic violence survivors. I met the baby through a rather serendipitous connection with a U.S. and Cusco based NGO. The NGO helps to run the shelter and provides comprehensive life coaching and interpersonal support for the women in their programs. They are doing amazing work bringing true holism to the families they work with. However, they are not a medical program. Through a collaboration with our HBI team, they've able to leverage our knowledge and skills in health systems navigation and medical partnerships. They've been able to build a holistic approach to support the baby, his mother, and the entire family.
Scott Harrison’s story is compelling. Nightclub promoter makes a spiritual journey deep into the heart of Africa and comes back a champion for the underserved. I think it is great. Harrison is uber successful and raised millions of dollars by promoting a platform of connectivity and accountability. But here is the thing – we believe the world needs both focused solutions and integrated approaches. The world needs a great deal . . . and only by working together can we build the bridges that creates holism.
“Thanks for your ideas. I really appreciate your passion for what HBI is doing. I think Charity Water is great. Water is important, but clean water is one part of the highly complex and integrated solutions that communities deserve. Our goal is to build bridges of collaboration with a multitude of solutions. We feel the sum of our parts offers the best chance to really end the health equity imbalances that plague the world today. Perhaps one day we can partner with Charity Water. I'm a big fan of Scott Harrison.”
So ended our conversation.
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.