Laura Freschi and Alanna Shaikh's Gates Foundation Article Tops Alliance Magazine's Most Read List

Congratulations to  our associate director Laura Freschi and Alanna Shaikh, an international health consultant,  who topped the list of Alliance Magazine's most read articles of 2011. Their piece -- Gates - a benevolent dictator for public health? -- was published in the special 'Living with the Gates Foundation' edition in September.  Gates - a benevolent dictator for public health? Laura Freschi and Alanna Shaikh

The public health landscape today looks unquestionably different from how it did in the late 1990s when the Gates Foundation strode on to the field. To its credit, the foundation has brought about a resurgence of interest in global health issues at a time when the cause was running low on energy and funds. Before Gates, global health funding covered little more than HIV and emerging infectious diseases – a bare shadow of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Health for All[1] vision of the 1970s. But Gates’ support for global health also raises questions: is it pushing us too much towards simple technological responses to multifaceted problems? With its influence so far-reaching, who will be willing and able to offer objective feedback? Click here to read

The Gates Foundation edition, which was guest-edited by Philanthropy Action's Timothy Ogden, examined the foundation's impact on both philanthropy and the fields it contributes to. Watch footage from a panel discussion on 'Living with the Gates Foundation' at the Hudson Institute.

See the other most-read articles below, including this one on culture and philanthropy by Tim Ogden:

How much difference is it making? Tim Ogden

Every autumn, an American university publishes a list of once popular items and phrases that fell out of standard use before the new class of students were born. For instance, a few years ago the list noted that incoming students probably hadn’t ever used cassette players. The intent is to remind professors and administrators that young people do not necessarily share many of our perceived cultural touchstones. Today, a discussion of philanthropic foundations’ role in society always begins with the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation and the Ford Foundation. But this shared cultural touchstone is being eclipsed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Click here to read

Interview - Jodi Nelson

In November 2007, Alliance talked to Fay Twersky, recently appointed to head up the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s brand-new Impact Planning and Improvement Unit. Three and a half years later, Caroline Hartnell asked her newly appointed successor, Jodi Nelson, to what extent Bill and Melinda Gates’ original aims for the unit have been achieved. And what challenges does she face in her new role? One thing she emphasizes is the need to measure selectively and only when the results will actually be used to do something. Click here to read

‘They want to save the world in 45 minutes’ Olga Alexeeva

This is a shorter version of an interview with Olga Alexeeva published by CAF Russia’s magazine Money and Charity on 25 May, less than two months before she died. Carried out by Matvei Masaltsev, this interview reflects the unique insights into philanthropy around the world that informed all of Olga’s work, and in particular her most recent venture, the Philanthropy Bridge Foundation. Alliance thanks Sue Rogers for translating this from the Russian original. Click here to read

Why does Bihar matter? Simon Desjardins

Long before Gandhi would use it as a launch pad for his campaign for independence, Bihar was an economic powerhouse, serving as the capital of India during Ashoka’s empire in the third century BC, when India’s boundaries stretched to include present-day Afghanistan and parts of Iran to the west and Bangladesh to the east. It is a state rich in history, home to one of the world’s oldest universities (Nalanda) and the oldest democracy, and they even say Buddha found enlightenment here. Click here to read

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VIDEO: "Living with the Gates Foundation" by the Hudson Institute and Alliance Magazine

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.

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Caroline Preston has a good review of the panel on the Chronicle of Philanthropy's "The Giveaway" blog as well.

The Stanford Social Innovation Review hosted a webinar on the same topic on December 14. Tim Ogden summarizes this discussion about the Gates Foundation's impact on global social change:

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.

Read his entire post on the SSIR blog.

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