Bill & Melinda Gates to take questions, talk about success. Not ONE’s finances.

Want to ask Bill and (or) Melinda Gates a question? Here’s your chance.

On Monday, October 18, the world’s top philanthropists will be joining the ONE campaign in London to take questions and launch a project called Living Proof focused on progress in global health.

The project was actually already launched once, a year ago on the Gates Foundation website, but what the heck. There is real progress being made out there and that’s the point.

In the video below, Melinda Gates says they are often asked “Why do we tell success stories?”

Okay, do people really ask Bill and Melinda Gates this question all the time? That must get tiresome.

Anyway, as Melinda says, the reason they tell success stories — the point of the Living Proof project — is that too much of the news media focus on global health is negative, emphasizing the problems rather than the progress.

True enough. The foundation provides evidence of substantial improvement in many areas of health, such as child immunization rates, maternal health, AIDS, malaria and the near-eradication of polio. It is important to know that these efforts in global health and development are making a difference.

And I bet the ONE campaign, which gets most of its funding from the Gates Foundation, also isn’t too happy with the media’s tendency to focus on the negative. Like the questions about how ONE raised something like $15 million, spent $8 million on salaries and donated less than $200,000 to charity.

The New York Post started it all, mostly by missing the point to make fun of ONE co-founder Bono and the media swag ONE handed out during the UN Millennium Development Goals confab. What actually caught most people’s eyes were the startling financials mentioned at the very end of the article.

ONE responded that it is not a charity but an advocacy group — and that its grassroots political advocacy managed by 120 staffers, working in seven countries through its two million ONE members, has benefited millions of poor people worldwide.

The advocacy organization quoted former Senator Norm Coleman (R, Minn. — and sort of an odd choice given his own weird history on financial transparency) defending ONE: “To criticize ONE because it does not make direct charitable contributions is a bit like criticizing General Motors for not making iPods.”

Yeah, c’mon, it’s the Chinese who make iPods! Let’s criticize Apple for not making iPods.

At any rate, I bet you can think of a better question to ask the Gateses than why they like success stories.

Here’s where you can submit a question and even vote on other submitted questions (though I’m not sure we get to see the voting tally).

UPDATE: The day after I wrote this post, the ONE campaign stopped accepting questions submitted on their web page. But you can still Tweet them.


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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.