This high-powered, low-profile Seattle gang fighting global poverty means business | 

I’m not easily surprised, but I have to admit to being surprised at how few folks in Seattle appear know about the Initiative for Global Development.

You’d think an anti-poverty organization started by leading Seattle philanthropist Bill Clapp, founding EPA head Bill Ruckelshaus, Bill Gates Sr. (yes there are lots of jokes about the predominance of Bills), former US Senator Dan Evans and late former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili would get a lot of public attention. Nope.

“We’re more well known in Washington, D.C., than we are in Seattle,” chuckled Jennifer Potter, who is stepping down as president and CEO of this powerful but locally off-the-radar organization launched here in 2003. Former Wisconsin Congressman Mark Green, who just started this week, is taking the helm.

Jennifer Potter and Bill Clapp celebrate a decade of the Initiative for Global Development, a uniquely Northwest contributor to the fight against global poverty
Jennifer Potter and Bill Clapp celebrate a decade of the Initiative for Global Development, a uniquely Northwest contributor to the fight against global poverty

The project, IGD, was first conceived by Potter and Clapp largely in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept, 11, 2001. Clapp, who with his wife Paula has founded a number of humanitarian and international development organizations (including the Seattle International Foundation, which also helps fund this news site), honored Potter last night at a small gathering of pretty powerful people at the Four Seasons Hotel, in the residence of Howard Wright and Kate Janeway.

“When we all got started tens years ago it was a just an idea, a concept put together by the three Bills, Dan and Shali,” said former US Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell (by video), who, along with Madeleine Albright, serve as co-chairs of the IGD leadership council. Powell credited Potter and the Seattle-based crowd behind IGD with promoting the  idea that American interests and national security are best served by reducing poverty and inequity.

“If you give people hope and inspiration, they are less likely to move in the wrong direction,” Powell said. Albright also offered praise of IGD and Potter as did Clapp, Gates Sr., Ruckelshaus and others. The Obama Administration’s nominee to become Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, CEO at REI, served as emcee for the event.

I could go on dropping names and scratching my head as to how I got in the room (a number of attendees did ask me that…). Or I could try to describe the impact the IGD has had, and how Potter shifted the organization to emphasizing business development in poor countries and away from the original strategy of trying to influence government policy (“That was a bit frustrating,” Potter said to me, and then promised to tell me more later).

But it’s too big a story. I’ll get back to you on it, with more from this amazing collection of folks. I didn’t actually plan on writing anything out of this event. Just went for the free food and view. So while you wait on me to do a bit more reporting, here’s some photos to give you an idea of the event:

Former Wisconsin Congressman Mark Green, new CEO of IGD, and Sally Jewell, CEO of REI and Obama's pick to head up Dept. Interior
Former Wisconsin Congressman Mark Green, new CEO of IGD, and Sally Jewell, CEO of REI and Obama’s pick to head up Dept. Interior

 

At center, Bill Gates Sr, Bill and Paula Clapp, and others at IGD gathering
At center, Bill Gates Sr, Bill and Paula Clapp, and others at IGD gathering

 

Bill Ruckelshaus had them laughing, remembering ten years of IGD
Bill Ruckelshaus had them laughing, remembering ten years of IGD