annual letter

RECENT POSTS

Humanosphere’s annual letter to Bill and Melinda Gates | 

Today, Bill Gates, with assistance from Melinda, issued his annual letter and the theme for 2014 was myth-busting. We will explore those myths a bit.

As was reported first in the Wall Street Journal, which for some reason is annually privileged to reveal the contents of Bill’s letter in advance of other media, the Gateses this year set out to debunk three ideas they believe threaten progress:

  1. Poor nations are doomed to stay poor.
  2. Foreign aid is a big waste.
  3. Saving lives leads to over-population.

Humanosphere always enjoys reading, and reporting on, Bill’s yearly ruminations – if for no other reason than because the Gates Foundation has come to drive much of the narrative around the many efforts aimed at reducing poverty, diseases of poverty and inequity. The message this year?

Things are getting better. Stop being so negative. Continue reading

Gates Foundation CEO describes how measuring polio is key to ending it | 

Bill Gates issued his annual letter for 2013 today, in which he makes the case for measurement as a critical tool to fighting poverty, disease and inequality.

The call for better measurement and evaluation within the aid and development community is popular, but hardly new. And, as we noted earlier in the week when Gates spilled the beans on what he was going to say this year, it’s one thing to measure something and quite another to be certain you’re looking at the right variables, getting meaningful numbers and coming up with an answer that actually provides you with a useful new course of action.

Jeff RaikesThat’s why I wanted to tell Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill& Melinda Gates Foundation, the story of the drunk under the street light.

You know, this guy sees a drunk guy crawling around under a light looking for his car keys. He asks the drunk where exactly he thinks he dropped the keys. “Over there in that dark alley,” replies the inebriate. So the guy asks, why look here? Drunk guy: “The light is better.”

“…” said Raikes, blankly looking like he thought agreeing to this interview maybe wasn’t such a good idea.

My point was that measurement and evaluation are fine, but as Albert Einstein said: “Some things that are worth doing can’t be measured; And some things that can be measured aren’t worth doing.”

The eradication of polio is a top priority right now for the Gates Foundation, as Gates notes in his 2013 letter and has said many times over the years — saying so again in a speech this week  in London. He thinks it can be done by 2018, a fairly bold prediction because it’s been made by others so many times over and has, so far, never happened. Said Gates:

“The number of global polio cases has been under 1,000 cases for the last two years, but getting rid of the very last few cases is the hardest part.”

Yeah, so how can measurement help? Continue reading

Bill Gates talks metrics and spills the beans on his annual letter | 

Bill Gates Malaria ForumOn Wednesday, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will officially release Bill’s annual letter.

You can sign up here to get it yourself, or just read the Wall Street Journal op-ed published last week in which he pretty much says the same thing:

“In the past year, I have been struck by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve incredible progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal.”

No surprise here. But there’s measurement and then there is evaluation. They aren’t always the same thing. Continue reading