• Social Innovation Fellowship

Award Year 

Rainwater for Humanity

Rainwater for Humanity (R4H) is a social enterprise that harvests rain to provide clean water, empower women as entrepreneurs, and boost community health in Kerala, India. Our primary water quality analysis also shows that aside from bottled water, rainwater is the only water source that satisfies WHO drinking water standards in the region.

Our organization is a collaboration between teams at Brown and Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala. Through this partnership, R4H leverages our local partners’ well-established credibility and taps into the existing networks of villages, academia and non-profit societies. Through an international design process, we are continuously decreasing the cost of rainwater harvesting structures, which are then made available to local households through a risk-sharing loan program. We also provide new entrepreneurial opportunities to underemployed women by training self-help group members in system construction and business management.



University reaches out to a villageThe Hindu, Dec 06, 2009. 


    Personal Statement

    I have been heavily involved in the technical side of R4H, working on designing and prototyping our rainwater catchment systems. For the two semesters we have had a technical design team composed primarily of Brown engineering and RISD architecture students. Designing a system for a particular task and environment we all were initially unfamiliar with has been a learning process, but with research and assistance from professionals here and on the ground we have made substantial progress on designing a functional system within the context of R4H. As of March 2010, we have completed two constructions in India (serving 30 families in our pilot village) as well as one prototype in Providence. This past semester, I have been in charge of leading this group,which has been a massively educational experience. Simultaneously positioning this team within a broader organization and managing a practical design process is something I had to learn to a large extent as I went along, but having to juggle so many responsibilities as one of the three project leaders at Brown has had its benefits. For an organization bringing together people from so many disciplines and locations, R4H has done an amazing job coordinating work betweenthe entirety of our team and keeping all important stakeholders engaged.

    Throughout this design work, I have come to realize that providing a technical solution to a problem is only goes a small way towards making a measurable difference in people’s lives. It is far more difficult to develop and implement something people will actually use than simply to make something that works. I want to gain more experience and expertise in the social, economic, and political aspects of this project, especially as they relate to formulating a design process. I am not trying to move away from the technical questions, but rather to develop the background necessary to approach them from a more effective position. This means learning how to manage the economics, logistics, and especially communications of a social enterprise, as well as figuring out how to integrate a design approach spread across the globe into a particular local context. The knowledge and skills required to alleviate water scarcity in Kuttanad exist somewhere in the world; what is needed is to combine these disparate sources into a socially and economically viable model of implementation.


    • Clinton Global Initiative University grant
    • Ashoka GenV grant
    • GlobalGiving member
    • Power in Numbers grant from DoSomething.org
    • Davis Projects for Peace grant
    • IEEE grant