Bill Gates and Philanthropy 2.0: shouting for the voiceless

Bill Gates’ greatest achievements lie ahead of him. And this time, he really is going to change the world.
Why? Because he understands that there are some things that just can’t be done by business or the marketplace.
His words:
95 percent — actually, 98 percent — of all medical research is done for rich people. It’s done for baldness, erectile dysfunction, cosmetic surgery. That’s where 98 percent of the researchers are working. …
So the voices of the poor are never heard in this marketplace system. That is, the needs of the poorest, they don’t speak in that prioritization, because they’re not paying for medicines. They can’t.
So today’s prioritization is totally for the richest, for the things that they speak by buying those various medicines for. And so as we take our money, which in total is, compared to the overall market, fairly small, and cause some shift in the favor of malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis, to the degree there’s a finite number of scientists in the world, then you could say, OK, there’s a little bit less on baldness.
Because our money is incremental, ideally you’d be growing the pool of scientists, because you have more money, more jobs, more opportunity there. But it is true that the needs of the very richest might get a tiny bit less attention as we cure tuberculosis.

It’s refreshing to hear this from a leader of Gates’ caliber.
Another point of note: Gates doesn’t want incremental innovation and since he knows the current model of medical research isn’t working, he’s ready to change it.
There’s a lot more on this new version of Gates here, here, and here. What I like about it is the fact that Buffet is on board with him, and that between the two of them, they’re going to redefine the meaning of philanthropy.
The Gates Foundation is focused, and rightly so, on health and development.
But there’s just one thing they’ve forgotten: energy.
As Bob Freling says, “Energy is a human right.” The point Freling makes every day is absolutely critical and one Gates needs to understand: “You can’t have X-rays, or crop irrigation, or vaccines, without electricity. And in places like Africa, the only effective way to get that electricity – when you’re off the grid – is solar power.” So the Gates Foundation is going to have to look at energy as well. And the sooner they do, the faster they’ll get there with their other objectives – food security, health care for the poorest of the poor, etc.
I can’t wait to see more billionaires get on the Philanthropy 2.0 bandwagon. What are you waiting for Larry Ellison? And how ’bout getting A.G. Lafley and the P&G open innovation nerds on board as well. Let’s cure malaria instead of whitening teeth. eh?
Go, Bill, Go.

One Reply to “Bill Gates and Philanthropy 2.0: shouting for the voiceless”

  1. Gates seems to be doing a great job with his philanthropy, and Buffet is very smart to throw in with him. As great as their private resources are, they are less than the resources controlled by government. Therefore they are wise not to try to do everything. Perhaps other wealthy people might take on energy.
    Don’t underestimate the current model of biomedical innovation! Life expectancy in the United States increased by three or four months per year over the last century. As you point out, what we need is a new institutional model to create links between modern biomedical science and the health needs of poor people (who of course are concentrated in poor countries.)
    Nice blog, Christian!

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