Scott Harrison


NYU Alumni Changemaker of the Year
CAS ’98

Founder/CEO, charity: water

“I was the worst person I knew,” says Scott Harrison, whose post-college years as a top Manhattan nightclub promoter left him miserable and morally bankrupt. Reviving a long- dormant Christian faith, Harrison sold everything he owned and sought out service work, volunteering as a photojournalist aboard a hospital ship. That's how he ended up in West Africa, where his daily exposure to poverty and disease led him to a world-changing epiphany.

Harrison realized the vast majority of challenges facing the poor could be reduced to a single cause: lack of clean, safe water. In 2006, on the night of his 31st birthday, he returned to his roots, throwing a party and charging $20 at the door instead of collecting gifts. He used that money for two ventures: first, to repair and build wells at a refugee camp in Uganda; and second, to found charity: water, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing clean water to developing nations around the world.

charity: water has since provided clean water to more than 8.2 million people. Harrison has mobilized more than one million donors to fund over 28,000 water projects in 26 countries. And he is still building on the success of his platform, determined to bring clean water to 100 million people by the year 2020. “I want to use my story to inspire future entrepreneurs,” he says. “If a nightclub owner hooked on drugs can help 8 million people, imagine what others might do.”