This is a Part 6 of a Guide we are creating in the IntelligentHQ Series on Social Entrepreneurship Foundations. In these series of articles we will be highlighting the top international Foundations focused in social business and social entrepreneuship.
Bill Gates is perhaps best known for his work at Microsoft, and he is continually ranked in the Forbes list of the wealthiest people in the world. In September 2014, Bill Gates was considered to be the second wealthiest person on the planet. One aspect about Bill Gates that is less well known however is his philanthropy. Together with his wife, Melinda Gates he set up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation works together with organisations and partners across the globe to tackle difficult challenges associated with poverty related to specific issues. As Bill and Melinda put it:
“We focus on only a few issues because we think that’s the best way to have great impact…we think they are the biggest barriers that prevent people from making the most of their lives”.
The organisation was born in the late 1990s, and both Bill and Melinda are reported to have come from families that believed in volunteerism and civic engagement. The early signs that an organisation may spring up came in 1997, and in that same year, Bill took his first trip to India, working with the foundation to give polio vaccines to children. The Gates Library Foundation was launched also in the early years. One of the earliest projects was to bring Internet to public libraries. Between 2000 and 2009 the organisation was consolidated and the actual Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation itself was formed in 2000. Some early projects of the fledgling organisation included one in 2000 to address homelessness in the Puget Sound area in Washington State, as well as another in 2001 which launched an office in Washington D.C. to create partnerships with government funded programmes. Other important milestones during this period were the launch of a HIV/AIDs prevention branch in India in 2003, and in the same year the completion of the original libraries work. In 2005, the library work went global, working to bring computers and internet access to libraries in a variety of countries including Chile, Lithuania and Ukraine. In the same year $258 million was assigned in grants to anti-malaria work. In 2006 the organisation settled on three main priorities: global health, global development and work in the US. In 2007 a Beijing office was opened to tackle health problems in Asia, and in 2008, Bill Gates left Microsoft to work full time at the Foundation. More recently the organisation has continued to consolidate its work worldwide, based on the premise that all lives have equal value.
In a recent interview, published in TED, Bill and Melinda Gates reflect how the work they do in their foundation is the most satisfying thing they’ve ever done.
The organisation works based on gaining an understanding of the problems that people face. Regardless of the type of problem – whether it is an inner city problem in the USA or a farming problem in rural Africa, the approach is the same – listening first. Then the decision makers review whether or not it will be possible for the organisation to make a real difference, and if so, a grant or a contract is awarded. The organisation collaborates with grantee and partner organisations that work to align goals of projects with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s strategic priorities. This means agreeing upfront what the desired outcomes will be.
Deciding on developing grants and contracts is well structured, in four stages to make sure that all bases are covered. The first stage is concept development. During this stage, the Foundation’s officers work with partners in the field to review if a concept is aligned to a Foundation strategy or not and whether or not the foundation should proceed in this direction. The second stage includes a pre-proposal where concepts are explored and further refined, to understand several perspectives regarding the suggested work that will be carried out. This can include a request for a proposal (RFP), discussion or direct solicitation of an organisation in some cases. The third stage is investment development, and during this process applicants are given guidelines and templates since they need to complete a proposal, budget, results framework and tracker. Then their proposals can be properly reviewed, and a foundation executive can make the final decision regarding whether the grant or contract should be funded. In the final stage, the project goes ahead with close communication between the Foundation and the project.
Bill and Melinda Gates are a shining example of philanthropy by successful business people. If more of the world’s richest business people step up, maybe we can all work together to solve the problems of the world.
Intelligenthq Series on Social Entrepreneurship Foundations Part 1- Skoll Foundation
Intelligenthq Series on Social Entrepreneurship Foundations Part 2 – Ashoka Foundation
Intelligenthq Series on Social Entrepreneurship Foundations Part 3 – Schwab Foundation
Intelligenthq Series on Social Entrepreneurship Foundations Part 4 – UnLtd
Intelligenthq Series on Social Entrepreneurship Foundations Part 5 – Omydiar Network
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.