Actor and philanthropist Matt Damon and philanthropist Gary White shared their experiences working in world water fairness on Thursday, emphasizing the financial and social impacts of water accessibility. They have been hosted by the category SUSTAIN 345: International Leaders and Innovators in Human and Planetary Well being: Sustainable Societies Lab. The experiences Matt Damon and Gary White mentioned within the occasion have been additionally coated in a e book the 2 co-authored known as “The Value of Water”—the namesake of the occasion.
Damon and White based the nonprofit Water.org, and the impact-driven asset supervisor WaterEquity, which search to coach people-at-large on water shortage and supply microfinancing options to folks in want of loans for clear water and sanitation functions respectively.
Their initiatives have been acknowledged by numerous establishments. Damon and White have been each honored in Time Journal checklist “100 most influential folks” in 2011 for his or her work with Water.org.
Damon started the occasion by talking on his private introduction to water shortage.
“It was a difficulty not possible to narrate to, as a result of I used to be by no means quite a lot of steps away from clear water,” he mentioned. “There was a lot abundance in my very own life.”
White and Damon mentioned that that they had taken separate journeys overseas to Guatemala and Zambia respectively, the place they noticed the results of water shortage and have become dedicated to the difficulty.
Damon was on a water assortment journey with a 14-year outdated lady in Zambia in 2000. On the lengthy stroll to gather clear consuming water, which averages 3.7 miles in elements of the world, the lady advised him about her objective of residing in an enormous metropolis and turning into a nurse.
“It jogged my memory of me and Ben Affleck and our goals to go to New York,” he mentioned.
Regardless of the lengthy stroll, the existence of a borewell within the first place enabled her to go to high school as a result of she didn’t need to spend her days buying water. Based on a 2018 article by UNICEF, girls spend a mean of 200 hours a day securing clear water, barring them from many academic and vocational alternatives.
White mentioned this story exemplifies why the difficulty is so multifaceted, attributable to its results on the societal equality and financial system of an impacted nation.
“This lady had goals of contributing to the financial engine of her nation, which couldn’t have been achieved with out water entry,” Damon mentioned.
Damon additionally famous that water entry is a security concern for ladies.
“Many ladies take out loans for latrines in order that they don’t danger being sexually assaulted when going to alleviate themselves elsewhere at evening,” he mentioned. “Water is the way in which to interrupt the cycle of poverty, to guard and save lives, and make a vibrant future doable. It will increase entry to training and time to work, and households are extra wholesome.”
To additional emphasize the disproportionate impression of water shortage on girls, Damon famous that 97% of people supported by WaterEquity’s investments are girls.
WaterEquity describes itself not as a charity, however a monetary group that makes an attempt to extend funding in folks impacted by clear water shortage and their communities, and that at its coronary heart is the social impact-driven mission.
“There was by no means gonna be sufficient charity on the earth to unravel this concern. It was about serving to them entry inexpensive loans and creating worth,” White mentioned.
As a part of their work, WaterEquity identifies alternatives throughout Asia, Africa and South America to assist native monetary establishments scale their water and sanitation microlending profiles. Any such microlending entails monetary establishments providing low-interest loans to those that want cash to keep up clear water sources or washrooms.
“It’s not an revenue producing mortgage, it’s an incoming enhancing mortgage. It’s about getting [impacted people] their a refund,” mentioned White, emphasizing their perception that financial exercise misplaced attributable to water shortage is an avoidable concern. “Our job helps microfinance corporations see the financial worth of serving to folks get water.”
Moreover, the group companions with NGOs and native governments and invests in large-scale infrastructure tasks that work on rising the entry and availability of unpolluted consuming water to low-income communities
The group is claiming nice success, having supplied 716,000 microloans to low-income customers internationally. Based on their web site, WaterEquity has dedicated over $350 million in capital and reached 3.8 million folks with protected consuming water or sanitation.
“The truth that it’s a no brainer now, means it’s completely good,” mentioned Sara Singer, professor of drugs and sophistication teacher.
“I do have plenty of hope that this concern will likely be solved inside our lifetimes,” Damon mentioned. “We even have to consider the local weather, backsliding, and sustaining our infrastructures.”
White believes that 500 million folks could possibly be reached with this resolution.
“Now that we are able to present a risk-adjusted return for buyers, it’s as much as us,” he mentioned. “The capital can come from the bottom-up.”
White and Damon finally hope that their microfinancing mannequin will change into extra commonplace, saying that they hope different asset managers undertake their mannequin to assist attain extra impacted folks.
Singer mentioned that it is very important maintain conversations like this on campus. She defined that opening up the occasion to the broader Stanford group past the classroom was an vital and calculated transfer as a result of it can be crucial for college students to find out about points and options surrounding water entry.
“What [White and Damon] have achieved is extremely modern,” she mentioned. “They’ve recognized a really highly effective monetary mannequin for addressing an enormous downside, and to do it in a method that doesn’t depend on charity and empowers the folks it’s supporting, particularly girls and underserved communities.”
She additionally mentioned that they profit from speaking with Stanford college students, because it’s vital for the “smartest and most motivated folks they will get” to affix their tasks.
Gordon Bloom, a lecturer for SUSTAIN 345 and director of the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Lab—Human and Planetary Well being, mentioned that this 12 months has been notably particular due to the brand new Doerr College of Sustainability.
“Our work may be very carefully aligned. Simply the truth that now we have all this new momentum round problems with sustainability…It’s been nice,” Bloom mentioned.
“We face this huge problem, and we are able to actually make a major contribution to this disaster,” he mentioned.
Josh Hechtman ’25 and Charles Scheiner ’25, co-leads of the category, helped manage the occasion. Hechtman mentioned that the category was an vital exploration of sustainability at a systems-scale for him.
“We had nothing that basically bridged all the pieces collectively. Sustainability isn’t only a science downside, it’s a cultural downside, it’s a political downside. It’s rooted in so many elementary points and elementary elements of our society,” he mentioned.
Damon ended the occasion with recommendation on pursuing significant social impression work.
“Establish your ardour, what’s wanted on the earth, and discover the intersection” he mentioned.