I’m sure this is old news in the blogosphere by now, but if you haven’t taken the time to read Bill Gates’ annual letter describing the work of the Gates Foundation, you should. Take 20 min and go through it. You will be inspired.
2009 Annual Letter
I still have not gotten through it in its entirety but I’ve been very impressed not only by the sheer amount of projects the Foundation has taken on, but even more so by two things…
First, the ability to be candid and talk about what has NOT worked.
Second, I’m impressed with the their integration of business principles into the world of philanthropic giving. They have been able to quanitfy results and the byproducts of their efforts (at least in this letter) so that the average person can understand the challenges, but also the ‘ripple effect’ of success.
A surprising but critical fact we learned was that reducing the number of deaths actually reduces population growth. Chart 3 shows the strong connection between infant mortality rates and fertility rates. Contrary to the Malthusian view that population will grow to the limit of however many kids can be fed, in fact parents choose to have enough kids to give them a high chance that several will survive to support them as they grow old. As the number of kids who survive to adulthood goes up, parents can achieve this goal without having as many children. This means that improved health is critical to getting a country into the positive cycle of increasing education, stability, and wealth. When health improves, people have smaller families and the government has more resources per person, so improving nutrition and education becomes much easier. These investments also improve health, and a virtuous cycle begins that takes a country out of poverty. This was a huge revelation for Melinda and me. It is why we expanded our focus from reproductive health to all of the major infectious diseases.
I applaud the Gates foundation for not only making this document public, but addressing the needs of people around the world in a method that promotes research, accountability, and results.