One of the core ideas that I would like to explore and expand on through my writing is the philosophy behind philanthropy. Although my content is based around the documentation of my journey as a humanitarian worker, I believe there is more to the conventional definition of philanthropy. The purpose here is to draw a bridge between philanthropy as a job title, philanthropy as a prestigious label given to those who donate large sums of their fortune, and the people who aren’t directly involved in any related field of work.
Through my attempt to bridge this gap, I am curious to see how the development of a philanthropic philosophy, once adopted, can add value to people’s lives by improving levels of fulfillment and overall quality of life.
Let’s begin with the story of Scott Harrison and ‘Charity Water’ –
The story of Scott Harrison, founder of ‘Charity Water’ is one that has captivated many people across the globe. Scott began his early career as a nightclub promoter in Manhattan where he indulged in a life of self-orientated pleasures. Hitting ultimate success as a nightclub promoter, he found himself surrounded by fame, fortune and a long list of dark vices which would later lead to him declaring spiritual, emotional and moral bankruptcy.
Scott decided to take a turn, embarking on a journey as a photojournalist on a hospital ship, where he spent 2 years off the coast of Liberia. Experiencing firsthand – the effects of dirty water, Scott set back to New York on a new mission. Upon returning to NYC in 2006, Scott turned his full attention to the global water crisis and since then, he has helped raised $320 million and funded up to 30,000 water projects in 26 countries. On completion, these projects will provide clean water for up to 8.4 million people.
What I found most interesting about Scott is the way he hires employees for ‘Charity Water’. Scott mentions having keen individuals who apply for jobs through ‘Charity Water’. The charity has had a long list of eager applicants who are willing to “clean the toilets”, just as long as they can join the mission. On the surface, this may sound great, however Scott looks at this much differently. When hiring, Charity Water focuses on craft and excellence before they consider the passion that the candidate may have towards the mission.
Scott is always on the lookout to hire top performers from companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft or Tesla who have spent years developing skills in a particular field of work. It is at ‘Charity Water’ where these highly skilled individuals get to experience a new approach to their work, being able to use their expertise to serve others. Once these individuals jump on board, they then get introduced to the mission behind Charity Water, and that is they get to witness their skills being put towards significantly impactful philanthropic work.
This notion of living in service of others is something that I would like to explore further. I believe there is more to it than just an artificially compromised corporate title. What makes it so unique is the fact that this philosophy can be applied to almost anything in career or life.
When you look at the definition of philanthropy, you see something quite different from the stereotypical image of the generous billionaire or the self-sacrificing humanitarian. Philanthropy is – the desire to promote the welfare of others. When a school teacher watches his or her students grow, this experience triggers a positive emotional response. On a neurochemical level, the release of endorphins invokes this ‘feel-good’ experience. Professions such as these are taken up by individuals who value this emotional response, sometimes more than the value they hold for monetary gain. The level of fulfillment gained from these jobs is enough to sustain passion and perseverance while performing their work.
So, how can this philanthropic approach apply to people who work roles where promoting the welfare of others isn’t a direct priority? This question may require some outside of the box thinking. If we can find ways where offering value that exceed the expectations of those whom we seek to serve, then maybe, just maybe we can begin to make real impact.