Ayori Selassie has been a Tap member since 2016. Here’s why, in her own words.
I’ve been following Tiffani’s journey since she came to Silicon Valley, when she was doing Pencil You In, I thought that was amazing. And then, the Detroit water crisis hit. I saw everybody talking about how horrible it was, and how much we needed to do something. But I didn’t see anyone else actually doing anything about it.
From what it seems (and correct me if I’m wrong), Tiffani was the only person to take a technology approach to helping people solve the challenge of clean water access. Since then, I’ve watched Tiffani expand her mission a bit. So it’s not just about predatory water distribution. It’s about access to basic human needs.
I continue to be inspired by the path she has carved out, using technology skills to solve a huge challenge. I can’t do much as an individual. I’m not changing my whole life to be around solving this challenge like she has. But at least I can help her. I can chip in.
The Human Utility is one of the few organizations I contribute monthly to. It’s an honor to be able to help. When I started to give, I didn’t even know Tiffani. I was just like wow, this is great. It made sense to me to start as a monthly donor. People have to pay their bills every month. I pay my own, too!
I come from a family that was particularly poor. My mom had eight children. When I was eight years old, my mom showed me the budget. She showed me the money she had to set aside. What money was for rent. What was for food. What what for toiletries, like paper towels and toilet paper. I was like woah, the gymnastics my mom had to perform to make sure everything was paid!
There were times she had to delay paying something for several months. Just to pay the rent! We would pay the minimum to keep the water running. That’s a human condition, the result of economic inequity and gender discrimination. People like my mom were constantly struggling. Water is something you need every day. Just to take a bath. To cook. You NEED it. You can’t go without it. The fact that there are people out there who literally do not have it drives me crazy. I think of my mom. I was thinking of her when I made the decision to donate monthly.
I think a root cause of the water problem is because we’re taking something that is a human need at the most basic level, and we’re charging people for it. Honestly, the only people who should be charged for water are the people who are making money off of it, for example, juice or bottled water companies. If you make money off a basic human need, you should pay a premium, but these companies are actually paying much less than others. That’s a severe injustice. It needs to be corrected. Reversed. People shouldn’t have to pay for water.
Looking ahead, the infrastructure that we rely on should be coming out of tax dollars. More tax money should be coming from corporations who are making a profit off all of us. I would love to see us shift to a new model like that around basic human needs.
The other thing I think is really important is to help people understand the complexities of people who live in poverty. That includes having to struggle and making hard decisions, like which bills to pay. People who live on fixed incomes face major challenges. There’s part of the population who says that it’s their own fault. But really, it’s just the human condition. People have children. People get injured. No matter what happens, they still need water. Light, food.
As life goes by, the more privilege I gain, the more work I have to do to stay aware of the reality of people who do not have my privilege. That’s why the work that The Human Utility does sharing people’s stories is important to me. The stories are really powerful and significant. I hope you continue to do it.
Ayori Selassie is the creator of Life Model Design, a methodology used to solve complex life problems using design thinking. As the inventor of Life Model Canvas® (the framework to design your life), Ayori is a globally recognized thought leader, entrepreneur, philanthropist and innovator. Ayori currently works as a Product Marketing Manager on Einstein at Salesforce delivering artificial intelligence for everyone. www.ayoriselassie.com