CWS co-founder and Executive Director, Kate Clopeck graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and secured her "perfect" job — a great salary, benefits and her own office. It was a great opportunity, but from day one she knew something was missing. She longed for the fieldwork that had been her passion as an undergraduate leader of clean water projects in Nicaragua and Cameroon.
Eager to return to that world, Kate went back to school in 2007, this time for a Masters in Technology and Policy at the Massachusetts Institute in Technology. She wanted to concentrate her studies on water in developing countries, and soon found thesis advisor Susan Murcott who was leading a graduate research program on household water treatment in Northern Ghana. Kate focused her work on the sustained use of household water treatment and safe storage technologies, and over an intense January of research met Vanessa Green, a fellow MIT graduate, studying consumer choice of a range of household water products. As engineers, Vanessa and Kate both understood that the water needs in Ghana were not due to a lack of technical solutions – there were a ton of water treatment products available on the market that met the needs of Ghanaian communities! The challenge lay in the implementation of those solutions. Intrigued by the idea of finding a sustainable implementation model, Vanessa and Kate worked together through the subsequent term to develop the community-scale, low-tech, social enterprise approach that formed foundation of our model. They raised funds to pilot the idea from the Public Service Center at MIT and headed again to Ghana in June 2008.
After a successful initial implementation they brought Chuck Howe and Mike Brown onto the founding team and created Community Water Solutions! Kate committed her career to building the organization and a year and several successful implementations later the founding team knew they had a rock solid model. With that in place, they saw an opportunity to share the CWS experience with fellow students and young professionals while increasing impact on the ground and the Fellowship program was born!
Want to hear more about the early days of CWS? Check out Kate's Tedx Talk!