From Wine to Water

At a conference room full of heavy hitters in the development space all doing great stuff, how does a bartender end up on stage?  Doc Hendley, Founder and President of Wine To Water & One of the Top 10 CNN 2009 Heroes, explained his story and what made him switch from serving drinks behind a bar to helping people find their first drink (of clean water) in the field:

  1. Not only was the water issue really, REALLY bad…Bo Miller, Global Director, Corporate Citizenship, The Dow Chemical Company, kicked off Doc’s introduction with the big picture of waterborne diseases- “More children die from waterborne diseases than HIV/AIDS and Malaria combined”- And if the above point was not shocking enough, “Diarrhea, a preventable condition, kills 1.5 million people per year”

  2. but I’d also not heard anything about it (we knew about AIDS, Malaria, and all the rest, but water was not on the radar despite of how dire the issue was)

So why is Doc Hendley speaking at a conference about scaling impact? Consider his timeline and the impact that came out of that:

  • - “I took about a month and a half to research the issue and hold the first event (at that time had no plan to form an organization, just wanted to raise some money to have an impact)”

  • - “Within 5 years, had improved the lives of 25,000 people”

  • - “Took 1 additional year to double that impact to 50,000 people”

What insights from the field can we glean from these experiences about how to scale impact in our various endeavors?

  • - First thing, before anything else, Start by building the relationship (service industry starts with “how are you doing today” and not with “what can I get you today”)

  • - Realize that there might be/usually is an easy fix (few hundred bucks for small parts/repairs/local repurposed materials) rather than an expensive endeavor (thousands and millions of dollars for a new well)

  • - Empower local people to be their own entity (because then its not coming across as “another gift from the west” but something from their community that inspires even more local engagement) rather than a photo-shoot waiting to happen with your branded material all over them.

  • - Don’t overlook the little guys (they also generate a lot of impact), don’t over look the simple solutions.

  • - Look past the bandaid(e.g. 4 million bottles of water per day to hydrate Haiti) and be ready to respond effectively: look ahead and think more effectively about solutions (e.g. one filter per family of 10  that will last 5 years, all for $20-30; or even teaching them how to make them: a local factory run by locals).

Re-published with permission by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce BCSC. Visit the original article.

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