I have the great privilege in my job as president of the World Bank Group of speaking to some of the most creative political and business leaders around the world. One of the consistent themes across all of these conversations is the recognition that we must accelerate innovation to end extreme poverty and to grow economies in a way that is shared by all. What we lack is clear consensus around the best ways to foster and scale new ideas.
Recently, I had the opportunity to have a long discussion with Bill Gates, and our conversation naturally turned to what inspires innovation. Bill and his wife Melinda launched their foundationin 1994 and since that time they have transformed the world’s development aspirations in health, education and poverty reduction.
I was one of the lucky beneficiaries of the Gates’ generosity. In 2000, their Foundation made a $44.7 million grant to Partners In Health, which I co-founded. At a time when most of the global health world was in denial about multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), the Gates made the largest single tuberculosis-related foundation gift in history in order to find ways to treat this disease in developing countries. This pattern of visionary, innovative philanthropy has been repeated again and again in their efforts to tackle some of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.
I’ve been reflecting on further lessons learned from our project that I could share with everyone. I’ve come up a number and they’re all interlinked. The first is that inevitably when you’re implementing innovative projects in complex contexts, you’re going to need to work with partners.