I recently read the 2017 Gates Foundation annual letter.  It starts with this alarming and kitschy picture. Whoa – this caught my attention.

Huge fan of Warren Buffett – for his intellect, quirkiness, and generosity. In 2006, Buffett donated $31B to the Gates foundation – the biggest gift in history. Remember, he could just as easily donated to his own foundation – but he put his money and trust in Bill and Melinda Gates. Big man.

Warren wrote Bill and Melinda a letter hereHe asked Bill and Melinda how his “investment” was doing. He asked what progress his donation had made in the their group effort to improve lives.

The Gates responded to Warren’s request, with an interview style response that looked like this.  Bill says something. Melinda says something

There are also several BOLD, COLORFUL numbers like the one below. These are some of the metrics that they use to challenge themselves and gauge their success.  This reply is worth reading, but here are some good ones.

This is amazing too. Global vaccination coverage was only 20% in 1980. That is shocking, and what major progress we (the world) has made since then. Truly, it is a less horrible time to live – than ever.

There are best practices.  They note that Rwanda cut infant mortality by 30% from 2008-2015. That is Ah-mazing.  Mali and Rwanda have similar income levels, and yet, Rwanda are saving their babies through decidedly low-tech means: more breast-feeding, sterile umbilical cord cutting, etc . . .

What more is there to say.  There is more than enough food to feed the world, and yet, 1 in 8 people globally are undernourished.  This is true even in the US, even though we have a huge obesity problem at the same time.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and that makes me reflect on the point that Bill and Melinda made here. Poverty is sexist. The poorer the society – often times – the worse women are treated. This has a doubly nasty effect because it is often the women who are the economic engines of the family – providing shelter, water, clothing, healthcare, child-rearing etc. Educating and empowering women and girls – well – improves everything.

All these numbers and messages are so important. As corporate people – we get caught up a lot in our white-collar careers and intellectual Economist reading (trust me, I am as guilty as anyone), but it’s good to pause, reflect, and be thankful. Thankful for what we have. Thankful for how much the world is getting better. Lots of fear-mongering out there – so, don’t watch too much local news. Instead, spend that time on slow thinking and helping to build a relationship, or solve a problem.

The last graph, they added was this one. Very optimistic message:

Worth your time: Gates Foundation 2017 annual letter

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