Step Inside The Office Of The Water Company Trying To Save The World

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Photo: Daniel Goodman / Business Insider

Around the world, serious discussions about water scarcity and conservation are just starting to gain ground among policy makers and the public. But for the over 800 million people without access to clean water it is not a policy issue. It is a daily challenge.

Startup charity: water wants to make sure every person on the planet has convenient access to clean water.

It created a slick site and a sophisticated operation to send money to parts of the world where clean water is scarce. It tries to find solutions to the water challenges in those parts of the world by working with local partners.

The site has a social networking feel to it and individuals can create profiles and sponsor projects, getting their friends and contacts to contribute. Tech PR guru Brooke Hammerling recently “donated” a birthday to the organisation.

Celebrity couple Will and Jada Smith also support the organisation. The two just went on a trip to Ethiopia to visit some of the communities that charity: water is working with. After giving up their birthdays in 2010 the two encouraged friends and fans to donate and just took the top fundraisers with them on this trip. The combined funds raised by their efforts reached $789,000.

On the trip, Will Smith said, “Our trip to Ethiopia with charity: water was an incredibly eye-opening and authentic experience. It was extraordinary to meet and spend time with the people of Tigray and to see first-hand how clean water changes everything for these communities.”

Charity: water is a non-profit and 100% of public donations go into the field. To fund their operational costs – including staffer salaries and their office – they have “investors” or donors who know that their money is going to the operation and not the field. 

A simple entrance.

One of the first things you see on entry...the charity wants to make sure that visitors don't think the beautiful office is the result of unnecessary expenses. Almost everything has been donated.

When you enter you meet Stephanie Goetz. She just started full-time a few months ago but before that she had been a volunteer at the organisation.

On the wall is a map of the world. Locations where charity: water is active in are marked with a yellow jug graphic.

Jerry cans are the typical container for gathering and transporting personal and family water supplies in Africa and much of the developing world.

The imagery is used in many charity: water materials and the fuel cans are all over the office.

On the other wall sit letters from supporters and the special edition charity: water Toms' a collaboration between the two.

Scott Harrison, charity: water's founder and CEO started the organisation in 2006. He went from a nightclub and fashion promoter to a volunteer aid photographer before starting charity: water. You can read more about his fascinating personal story at charity: water's website.

This picture is one of Harrison's, he has a series of closeups of people getting water from wells.

He is always busy at work.

And nearby sits Lindsay Ratowsky, his Executive Assistant. A Californian by origin she left the west coast for the opportunity to work with an organisation and cause she really believes in.

The office has some fun touches, like the hungry hippos game under this table.

Sitting at the table, Jan Chen (left) is a part-time accounting clerk at charity: water and Jonna Davis (right) is the Program Officer for West and Central Africa.

The non-profit has a lot of interns and we were there just as a new batch had arrived.

Harrison sits in on their orientation and training session.

The organisation has a fun atmosphere but they also have some rules.

Mohini Patel has been with charity: water as a Water Programs Administrator for a year and a half and had interned at the charity before. She is sitting below an adapted paragraph about the lives of the people in the world with regular access to safe, clean water to talk about the needs of the 800 million people without regular access to clean water.

The atmosphere is collaborative and employees will often have impromptu meetings.

But plenty of time is spent focused on work.

Water Changes Everything - the non-profit's motto.

The office has one of the more interesting views in New York City...a proper backyard!

Nearby sits Viktoria Harrison, she is Scott's wife and a crucial part of the organisation serving as its Creative Director.

She designed the motto mural.

Next to the mural is the engineering team. Christina Lutters is a front-end developer who has been with the charity for five months. She previously worked in a post-production shop but she had a background in non-profits and wanted to get back to an organisation she felt was making a difference in people's lives.

It says out of order on the sign...

But Greg Yagoda was in fact working hard behind it. Yagoda is a designer who focuses on the non-profit's print materials.

Yagoda helped design these visualizations of how the charity: water process works.

This old type writer used to belong to Harrison's parents.

We stop by the kitchen which has plenty of caffeine delivery options.

And a well stocked fridge.

charity: water puts an emphasis on their online and social media presence and they have an awesome Pinterest board.

The charity is growing and many interns have to use this main table in the middle of the office. At left is Kaitlin Swist, she just graduated from Bentley University. On the right is Grace Ko who graduated from Boston University.

Here is Scott Harrison in front of some moving pictures taken by Esther Havens, a humanitarian photographer that often works with charity: water.

We check out some of the notes from supporters on the walls as we leave.

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