There's philanthropy, and then there's Gates philanthropy. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which was founded in 1994 and has grown exponentially in resources and ambition since the software mogul's 2008 retirement from Microsoft to pursue saving the world full time, sits on an endowment of $36.3 billion. Already, the Gates Foundation has handed out more than $25 billion, well in excess of the GDP of Bahrain, in grants for everything from charter schools to antimalarial mosquito netting to microfinance to research into diseases -- say, visceral leishmaniasis -- that few Americans have even heard of. To take one example, the monumental scale of its efforts to fight malaria is reaping monumental dividends. In part due to the foundation's work, malaria deaths are down 20 percent worldwide since 2000, and 1 million African children have been saved from the disease, with a new and promising Gates-funded vaccine moving through clinical trials.
Bill and Melinda Gates on some unexpected new sources of aid -- and what they've learned from trying to save the world.
The Gateses don't just throw money at the world's problems -- they throw ideas at them, too. More so than perhaps any other philanthropic endeavor, their foundation has advanced the notion that the entrepreneurial, metrics-heavy sensibility that guides success in the private sector can be brought to bear on the big problems that corporations and governments alike have failed to solve ("philanthrocapitalism," as journalists Matthew Bishop and Michael Green dubbed it). Consider the Gates Foundation's approach to polio, for instance, which involves everything from pushing governments on foreign-aid policy to funding sewage monitoring in order to predict the disease's spread. The foundation's international reach has also served one of their other goals: inspiring the newly minted billionaires of the developing world to pursue philanthropy. They're up to 69 recruits, all of whom have agreed to spend the majority of their wealth on their own versions of Gates do-gooding.
Reading List That Used to Be Us, by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum; Redefining Health Care, by Michael E. Porter and Elizabeth Olmsted Teisberg; Change.edu, by Andrew Rosen.
Reading List Awakening Joy, by James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander; Connected, by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler; Mindset, by Carol S. Dweck.