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Glasspockets Find: 2013 Annual Letter from Bill Gates
February 12, 2013

Gates Foundation Annual Letter

In previous annual letters, Bill Gates has highlighted the power of innovation to reduce global hunger, poverty and disease, and improved educational outcomes in the U.S.  In the fifth Annual Letter from Bill Gates, he notes that any innovation will fall short if it cannot reach the people who will benefit from it.  That’s why he shifts his attention this year to examine how innovations in measurement are essential to discover better ways to deliver the solutions that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation seeks to push forward.

“You can achieve amazing progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal…”

Throughout the letter, Gates provides examples from the foundation’s experience that may inspire others to think critically and honestly about choosing the proper measurement to better gauge whether progress is happening—and, if not, what adjustments might make sense.  In northern Nigeria, he describes how digital technology has vastly improved the ability to map the distances between villages so that polio vaccine can more effectively be distributed to children at risk for the disease.

In Ethiopia, well-stocked health clinics have been set up in the vast rural stretches where most of the people live, enabling, among other successes, a significant reduction in the rate of child mortality and an increase in vaccination coverage.  Unlike ten years ago when it was unusual to document a child’s birth or death in rural Ethiopia, today there are much better official records that provide data to track progress and allow for adjustments to be made in order to address remaining—or new—needs.

In Colorado, the foundation initiated a project in 2009 to better understand how to build an evaluation and feedback mechanism to help teachers improve.  Final results of this project were announced last month, concluding that there are “observable, repeatable, and verifiable ways of measuring teacher effectiveness.”  The lessons learned may be used to improve teacher education which may open doors to re-creating a much more effective education system in this country.

Gates, in closing, expresses an overall sense of optimism, but shares two challenges that most concern him for accelerating progress over the next 15 years: the possibility that sufficient funds will not materialize for essential global health and development projects and that agreement will prove elusive in identifying clear goals to help the world’s poorest.

The 2013 Annual Letter from Bill Gates serves as a reminder to us all of both the importance of measurement and the challenge of determining the right things to measure to make transparent the difference we are making in the world.

To read or download the letter, click here.

 -- Mark Foley

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About Transparency Talk

  • Transparency Talk, the Glasspockets blog, is a platform for candid and constructive conversation about foundation transparency and accountability. In this space, Foundation Center highlights strategies, findings, and best practices on the web and in foundations–illuminating the importance of having "glass pockets."

    The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation Center.

    Questions and comments may be
    directed to:

    Janet Camarena
    Director, Transparency Initiatives
    Foundation Center

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