Business week in Seattle : Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

I. Who they are?

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation was created in 2000, and is located in Seattle. It aims to help the world by investing in health innovations and education. Mr. and Ms. Gates decided to use their celebrity status for a good cause, and wanted a way for other celebrities and politician to engage in their cause.

What are their values and their goals? The main vision of the foundation is that all lives should have the same value. To make this possible, the foundation has three different goals: give all individuals the same opportunities through education, healthcare for young mothers, and focus on areas of greatest need. In response to these needs, the foundation forms partnerships that allow them to collect resources but also to identify issues and make important changes. To measure these goals, the foundation focuses on individuals rather than on issues. This makes it easier to see results, to learn from mistakes and therefore, to make big changes.

Speaking of global changes, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation tries to empower the maximum number of people by contributing to projects aimed at finding solutions to various issues: economic, environmental, educational, and health related. This makes the solving of problems complex to organise and implement. Due to the size and reach of the foundation, it has to deal with leaders, governments, communities, and individuals all around the world. The foundation aims to create a real “family/community” that can work together to reach the foundation’s goals.

II. What they want to do

First, they want to empower the poorest people, especially women and girls, to transform their lives and help to lift them out of poverty. Women and girls are a focus for the foundation because supporting women and girls can have a ripple effect on society. The foundation provides tools to them through multiple different methods:

• By connecting these communities with digitally-based financial tools.
More than 2.5 billion people on the planet do not have access to a bank account, but having a bank account can be a determining factor in helping people seize opportunities and escape poverty. The Gates foundation decided to connect poor people through digital instead of traditional means, as it allows for cost savings and is also safer from the threats of corruption and theft. Using digital means is also more convenient as individuals can have access to their accounts via their mobile phones.

• By helping small farmers to increase their productivity, income and sustainability.
Since we know that three-quarters of the world’s poorest people obtain their food from farming small plots of land about the size of football fields, it’s essential that they survive and become sustainable. The foundation gave more than 2 billion dollars to help solve this issue. The funds went towards designing solutions suited to the farmers’ specific needs, increasing productivity thanks to new technologies and policies, developing partnerships with governments, private and non-private organizations and fostering agricultural practices that preserve natural resources.

• By giving women and girls access to family planning.
The foundation believes that every woman deserves to have access to contraceptives to determine her own future. It fosters coordination among donors, governments and partners to improve policies and expand affordable contraceptive technologies.

• By ensuring that students can have access to affordable postsecondary education. The foundation is developing solutions in the United States to fight against the rise of higher education cost that prevent students from going to college. In a world where our economy needs more postsecondary graduates as workers, an increasing number of students are unable to attend college due to the high cost. The foundation developed two programs for students to obtain degrees and certificates by minimizing the cost of admission and working to ensure the students’ success.

Secondly, the foundation wants to combat infectious diseases. Diseases kill many people each year and the poorest people are especially affected. Unfortunately, medicine is not within everyone’s reach. Most developing countries lacks the means, facilities and know-how to fight disease.

The Gates Foundation tries to find solutions to this problem. Its message is very clear: “we can save lives by delivering the latest in science and technology to those with the greatest needs”. Therefore, the foundation works with partners to provide effective vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics and to develop innovative approaches to deliver health services to those who need it most. Moreover, it invests heavily in developing new vaccines to prevent the infectious diseases that impose the greatest burdens.

Third, the Gates Foundation aims to inspire people to take action to change the world. Acting alone is not sufficient to create change. The Gates Foundation is trying to encourage public policies by associating with governments and public sectors in order to improve the living conditions of the poorest.

To do so the foundation must raise lot of funds. The funds are used to target several different areas:
• The aid policy: effectiveness of development aid is improved by working hand in hand with global advocates, donors and particularly the OECD in order to modernize development aid systems, unlock more funding and get more value from investment.
• The multilateral finance: close association is made with the world bank and regional development banks to conduct research and develop new ideas in order to achieve the strategic goals of the foundation.
• The country finance: the foundation is directly helping the government to improve the efficiency of their policies by providing them with analysis and advice about how to best use their resources.

The foundation’s team is working with donors, governments, banks and development experts. The size and the influence of the foundation allow them to support promising innovations and ideas targeting four specific areas: the development of new vaccines, the development of new drugs, the improvement of healthcare for mothers and the struggle against mosquitos.

III. What we learned

During our Businessweek in Seattle, we had the opportunity to learn about the Bill Gates Foundation.
The foundation makes every effort to make itself known to the general public. After the first part of our visit that allowed us to learn about their actions through animation, we were shown a film about the problems that the foundation tries to solve. At the end, the foundation encouraged us to contribute. Animations were put in place to make us think about our actions and they allowed us to freely give our ideas. We can imagine that the foundation makes a sorting and, perhaps, finds the origin of its actions in the ideas of anonymous such as us.

The week in Seattle allowed us visit and learn about many companies. Each time, some people of the company gave us time and allowed us to project ourselves in an environment of entrepreneurship or sustainable economy.
Unfortunately, the visit to the Bill Gates Foundation did not operate the same way as visits to the other companies. They presented their actions to us in a few words, and then they let us walk around and discover the foundation by ourselves. We would have liked to meet people from the foundation, but unfortunately our visit was no different from that of regular visitors. Therefore, we did not have the opportunity to learn more about the “business side” of the foundation.
Nevertheless, we were given the opportunity to participate in interesting activities related to the foundation’s actions. For example, there were activities to demonstrate the weight of the average bucket of water transported by thousands of Africans who don’t have access to drinking water, or to discover the core elements needed to create a successful project in difficult areas such as small cities in Africa, or to learn about the donators of the foundation and how their money could be used. All these activities and information were enriching and made visiting the foundation a good experience.

An interesting topic that we addressed during our visit was regarding the role played by such a foundation. Why would one of the richest men and his wife create a foundation? The most obvious reason is the willingness to do good. Indeed, Bill and Melinda Gates are known to be philanthropists. They use their image to try to make the world better by investing time and money in solving health and education issues. Yet, these kind of “corporate foundations” are often criticized and accused of existing to support and enhance the image of its founders and their company. When leaving the foundation, we were quite confused about the real role of the foundation.


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