Today I’ll be sending out my annual letter. It’s the fifth one I’ve written and I look forward to sharing what we’ve learned in our work at the foundation and how that learning will be applied to our efforts moving forward. Most of all, I really enjoy hearing back from you and many of the partner organizations we work with. I hope you’ll read my letter and share your thoughts about how we can continue to improve the lives of the world’s poorest in the years ahead.
This year, my letter focuses on the catalytic role that measurement can play in reducing hunger, poverty and disease. Setting goals and measuring progress are obviously not new ideas. But over the last year, I’ve really been struck by the impact this can have improving the lives of the poorest.
I’ll be sending out my letter later today, and you can sign up here to receive it. I’ll be highlighting a number of examples I’ve seen in the past year where measurement is making a difference – improving teacher effectiveness in Colorado, strengthening health services in Ethiopia and getting polio vaccines to children in critical areas of northern Nigeria.
I’ll also be talking about the role measurement has played in making such great progress on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). When the MDGs were established in 2000 – with the support of 193 nations – it was the first time specific, measurable goals were identified in key areas like reducing child mortality, eradicating hunger and improving maternal health.
Because the goals were clear and concrete, a lot of UN agencies and donor and developing countries started looking at various intervention programs through the lens of which ones would be most effective in helping achieve the MDGs.
The world won’t be able to achieve all of the MDGs by the 2015 deadline, but the results in many areas are impressive. In the world’s poorest countries, many fewer children are dying from vaccine-preventable and other diseases. Fewer families are living in extreme poverty. And more children are going to school.
Next year, the world will be picking a new set of goals to help us stay focused on improving the lives of the poorest for another 15 years. There is much work left to do. At the same time, it is also important that we take a step back to celebrate the incredible impact foreign aid can have with the right combination of donor generosity, political will, clear goals and measurement and innovation.
Bill Gates is co-chair and trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Photo courtesy of World Economic Forum