Bill Gates Talks Successes & Failures in First Annual Letter

I feel like a Bill Gates fanboy. He’s one of the few public figures that I seem to continually bring up in my posts because I think so highly of his move from Microsoft to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation six months ago. When he first made the announcement that he had planned to do that, it was an acknowledgment to the entire world that we are facing extremely grave social problems, and that it was going to take commitment from talented people to solve those problems. And it was like a high five for the nonprofit sector. Thanks Billy.

Recently, Bill released a public letter about the foundation’s  efforts to improve education and global health, as well as the impact of the economic downturn on those efforts.

What I liked about the letter was Bill’s candid review of the foundation’s successes and failures, particularly in the education field. He discusses that even though they’ve made over $2 billion in grants to create better high schools over the last nine years, “Many of the small schools that we invested in did not improve students’ achievement in any significant way.” Rather than investing in existing schools to improve their systems, the foundation will focus on creating new schools out of radical charter school models that work, like KIPP, and invest in systems that will foster the creation of better teachers. He said, “If you want your child to get the best education possible, it is actually more important to get him assigned to a great teacher than to a great school.”


He also praised the Obama administration for committing to education despite the recession and dwindling tax revenues, as we saw with the education portion of the stimulus plan.

I also wanted to point out that the foundation’s website says “Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation BETA.”

Seriously? BETA? Come on… What’s up with this beta culture spreading to the nonprofit sector?

Check out the lengthy letter at this link or by clicking the pic above. If you don’t want to read all 20 pages of the letter, I’ve picked out a few choice excerpts from the U.S. Education page after the jump:
Continue reading Bill Gates Talks Successes & Failures in First Annual Letter

Mrs. Bill Gates on Philanthropy

The Gateses (Bill and Melinda, e.g. the third wealthiest family on the entire planet) are at a super geeky tech conference down in Carlsbad, CA, called All Things D. One of my favorite blogs, Gizmodo, (don’t judge me) has covered Melinda Gates’ interview by none other than the wise tech sage himself, Walt Mossberg.

In the interview, she talks about how her hubby is stepping down from the top seat at Microsoft to spend more time at the Gates Foundation. I don’t know about you, but I think it is an incredible gesture for this extremely intelligent leader of the tech industry to symbolically say, “I’ve done all I can in the tech industry, and now I want to focus my energy and skills on solving the world’s most pressing matters.” This is coming from the man who makes more money in 5 minutes, than I do for an entire year (yea… he makes an estimated $18,000 per minute). He can pretty much do anything he wants with his boatloads of money. He could sit at home all day and watch TV, he could run for president, or he could be build his own island continent in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with all of his piles and piles of cash.

But no. Instead he and his wife are choosing to fight malaria, HIV, the school drop-out crisis, and poverty to name a few of their key initiatives. If that’s not inspirational, I don’t know what is.

Mossberg: What’s the difference between your Foundation and others like it? More money?
Melinda Gates: We can take risks…

…Melinda says they could tap their entire budget by attempting to fix the problems in the education system alone. Their mission is more to help take on that risk that governments can’t in fixing problems.

One of the Gates Foundations’ key areas of focus is America’s ailing educational system, and the vast number of students who drop out of school every year. I’m looking forward to the risks they take in that arena.

Question from the crowd: How do you deal with violence in schools going from students to teachers?
Melinda says that comes from facelessness in big schools. She’s seen schools with three cop cars in front and two metal detectors. You can see the gangs going through schools and once the teachers recognize the kids, the kids act a lot better. Once the teachers know the kids’ names, these things fall into place. She’s seen schools that have fixed this in NY be able to lose their metal detectors, and graduation rates go up profoundly (up to 78%).

You can read the rest of the transcript below:

[All Things D Live: Melinda Gates, Bride of Bill via Gizmodo]

And you can read her “coming out” article here from Fortune: Melinda Gates goes public.