VANCOUVER, B.C. — At this year’s TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Bill and Melinda Gates sat down for an interview on the TED stage to discuss their work for the Gates Foundation.
Gates stepped down from day-to-day operations at Microsoft back in 2008 in order to focus on the foundation he had established with his wife. Since then, the Gates Foundation has been recognized for all of the causes it has supported as well as the initiatives it has started, such as the Giving Pledge, which urges the world’s wealthiest individuals to pledge to give half of their fortunes to charity.
The Giving Pledge initiative started four years ago and now has pledges from over 120 people, including Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, and Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. More recently, billionaire businessman and friend of the Gates family Warren Buffet has pledged to leave most of his fortune to the Gates Foundation. Gates himself was surprised by Buffet’s decision.
Though the Giving Pledge has received a lot of criticism for not seeing results, the Gateses remain passionate about the importance of this initiative. They believe that the Giving Pledge creates an environment for these affluent individuals to collaborate on ways to best donate their money and ideas.
In the interview with TED director Chris Anderson at the conference, Bill Gates said, “It’s the most fulfilling thing we’ve ever done.” He went on to say, “Part of the reason I’m so optimistic is I think philanthropy is going to grow and work on things government is just not good at shining a light on.”
The Gateses also discussed their partnership and looked at both the successes and failures of their foundation over its lifetime. Bill Gates said that it was a conversation with his wife in 2008 that led him to take a step back from his work at Microsoft to focus instead on the foundation.
Melinda spoke about the different approaches she and Bill have in regard to their work fighting poverty and disease. She said, “Bill looks at big data whereas I look at things with intuition. We need to take the data and meet with people on the ground to see how it can be delivered. That piece is every bit as important.”
They spoke about the Gates Foundation’s many accomplishments, including the Giving Pledge. Melinda spoke about her work in Africa to promote family planning, as in some areas the use of condoms is frowned upon. Gates focused on the major success the foundation has had in lowering the number of childhood deaths worldwide. He noted that when he was born, approximately 20 million children under the age of 5 died every year, but today, that number has dropped significantly to 6 million.
The Gateses were also honest about some of their measures that have not been as successful, such as the years they spent investing in a drug to treat leishmaniasis, a disease that is contracted from a type of sand fly. The couple admitted that the $60 million they invested only had a “modest benefit.”
Overall, the Gateses are optimistic about the work the foundation will do in years to come as well as the future of philanthropy. The Gates Foundation is continuing to explore new causes and do their best to make the world a better place.