Wallenberg Lecture Speaker Will Discuss How His Nonprofit Is Addressing the Global Water Crisis
February 19, 2021
Scott Harrison spent about 10 years as a nightclub promoter in New York City.
"My life revolved around smoking, drugs, models and hard drinking," he said in a 2018 interview. "I worked at more than 40 nightclubs over a decade, and on the outside, it looked like I had it all."
But at age 28, during a vacation in South America, he had an epiphany.
"I realized I had suddenly (or slowly) become the worst version of myself. And the worst person I knew," he said. "I was morally bankrupt and living a life I wasn't proud of - one that ran directly counter to the values I was raised to believe in. I wondered what the exact opposite of my life would look like. What might it look like to return to the morality and spirituality of my youth? What might it look like to serve others instead of myself?"
That realization eventually led Harrison to create charity: water in 2006. The nonprofit, designed to address the global water crisis, has mobilized more than 1 million donors around the world to fund more than 59,000 water projects in 29 countries that will serve more than 11 million people. Charity: water has raised more than $400 million. Harrison has been recognized on Fortune's 40 under 40 list and Forbes' Impact 30 list, and he was ranked No. 10 in Fast Company's 100 Most Creative People in Business. He is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.
Harrison will discuss his journey and charity: water as the Marc and Connie Jacobson Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Speaker, which is part of the President's Lecture Series, at 7 p.m. March 2. His talk, titled "Reinventing Charity," is free and open to the public. RSVPs are due by Feb. 28.
The University Village Bookstore will have copies of his New York Times bestselling memoir, "Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World," available for sale.
Charity: water works with partners around the globe, and its Water Programs team spends about 30% of its time in the field managing projects, building relationships with local teams and reporting back results to donors.
Charity: water also has developed remote sensors to monitor the functionality of its water projects. Every time a project is completed, charity: water proves it using photos and GPS coordinates on Google Maps.
"Two words that are guiding points for me are trust and transparency," Harrison said.
The President's Lecture Series serves as a marketplace for ideas, featuring renowned speakers who share their knowledge, experience, opinions and accomplishments. Discussing timely topics, the series puts diversity first, offering an international lineup of authors and educators, business innovators and political figures.
The annual Wallenberg Lecture is sponsored by the Marc and Connie Jacobson Philanthropic Foundation. Speakers for the Wallenberg Lecture are chosen by the University. They must be humanitarians - those who are "making the world a better place" - balanced in their philosophical beliefs, and not at either extreme of the social spectrum.