Inspired to bolster faltering clean water efforts in the developing world, Sophia Sunwoo, a graduate of the BBA Strategic Design and Management program, and Josh Braunstein established Water Collective, a nonprofit focused on water system maintenance.
According to Sunwoo, 40 percent of the water systems installed in rural communities break down two to five years after being put into operation. The statistic drives Water Collective’s mission of involving local communities throughout the process, from installing the equipment to learning to maintain it. “The only way to sustain any solution is to give a community full autonomy in caring for it,” says Sunwoo. This approach is one that she developed at Parsons and now applies daily. “At Parsons, there’s a practice of arriving at thoughtful, functional solutions by addressing problems from the bottom up.”
Sunwoo’s impressive entrepreneurial efforts began at age 19 in her dorm room with the launch of an apparel company, which she sold four years after securing 250 retailers worldwide. Her hands-on approach and Braunstein’s background in nonprofit water management are enmeshed in the organization’s grassroots foundation.
Sunwoo says, “In the beginning, we had one objective: We wanted our organization to be a true reflection of what rural communities needed. We wanted to learn about the complicated and unsavory aspects of the water crisis, which we knew other organizations didn’t want to touch. From there, we created a working solution that lasts.”