How influential is the Gates Foundation, and what impact do its sheer size and scale -- the foundation grants an average of $10 million per day and employs over 1,000 people -- have on both philanthropy and the fields in which it operates? While there are obvious benefits to Gates' massive expenditure on public health, and the foundation has a reputation for following effective practices, doubts linger about its domination of the global health agenda, the squeezing out of diverse approaches and the difficulties of obtaining objective feedback. In a special edition of Alliance Magazine, guest editor Timothy Ogden points out the power dynamics between Gates' and other players in the fields where it operates. Among other contributors, DRI Associate Director Laura Freschi and global health consultant Alanna Shaikh questioned the Foundation's amenability to feedback, while Duke University's Edward Skloot discussed how the Foundation's scale makes it qualitatively different from any other charitable organization.
These questions were further explored at the Hudson Institute, where Tim Ogden, Laura Freschi and Edward Skloot were invited to a panel discussion on December 6 -- joined by Darin McKeever, Deputy Director for Charitable Support at the Foundation, and the Hudson Institute's William Schambra, who moderated.
Watch highlights of the event below:
Laura asked whether an organization as influential as the Gates Foundation, which funds not only health research and interventions but also the media sources that cover them, could be held accountable. Her segment begins at (13:23) in the full event video below. Read more about the discussion at the Hudson Institute's website, or download a copy of the edited transcript here.
Caroline Preston has a good review of the panel on the Chronicle of Philanthropy's "The Giveaway" blog as well.
The Gates Foundation needs to become more transparent, faster. It needs to provide more insight into how it makes decisions, what factors it considers, how it forms strategies, what it learns, and why it changes directions. This increased transparency is not just for—or even primarily for—those on the outside. It is the best way for the foundation to get the feedback it needs, determine its limitations and blind spots, and hear the wisdom of those outside its domain.